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AFGHANISTAN POPPY UNREST
Associated Press A young boy walks past a lone poppy 17 miles west of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Monday. Opium poppy growers, angry over government plans to destroy their crops, fired Monday on a government survey team, killing one person and wounding four others.

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A bomb tore through a crowd lining a road to welcome Afghanistan's defense minister on Monday, killing at least four people and injuring 18 in what officials said was another attempt to destabilize the government.

Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim was not hurt in the bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad, which an aide called an assassination attempt.

Elsewhere in eastern Afghanistan, at least one person was killed and four were wounded Monday when poppy farmers fired on government officials beginning an ambitious campaign to eradicate the opium-producing flowers.

Meanwhile, international peacekeepers said Kabul police discovered four more Chinese-made rockets aimed toward a camp housing German and Danish troops at the site used to launch two missiles over the weekend.

No one was injured in the weekend attack, but peacekeepers said they believed it was part of a campaign to damage the interim Afghan administration of Hamid Karzai ahead of the loya jirga, a national grand council that meets in June to select a new government.

Fahim had traveled to Jalalabad on Monday to meet with local commanders and tribal leaders and discuss, among other issues, poppy eradication.

As he made his way to the governor's house, a bomb exploded in front of his convoy, killing and wounding townspeople who had turned out to greet him, officials said.

Karzai's chief spokesman, Yusuf Nuristani, said he did not want to speculate on the bombers' motives. But a Defense Ministry official, Mir Ajan, called it an assassination attempt by outlaws "trying to destabilize the country and disrupt the minister's plans."

Officials said no arrests had been made in the attack, and Fahim returned to the capital later in the day.

The start of the anti-poppy program was linked to the outbreak of violence in several places, as poor poppy farmers protested that the government's offer of cash to destroy poppy flowers falls far short of the narcotic's eventual market value.

Authorities have said they will destroy the crops if farmers do not do so.

In Nangarhar province, about 40 miles east of Jalalabad, farmers opened fire Monday on provincial officials surveying their fields along the Pakistan-Afghan Highway, killing one person and wounding four, said Pir Haideri, a provincial government official.

Shenwari tribesmen opposed to the anti-poppy program also blocked the highway between Kabul and Pakistan on Monday, pelting vehicles with rocks, according to witnesses.

Officials of the 18-nation, 4,500 strong international peacekeeping force responsible for security in Kabul said their mission would not be disrupted by the weekend rocket attack and Sunday's discovery of the four missiles aimed at peacekeepers.

"We are absolutely determined to carry on," said peacekeepers' spokesman Flight Lt. Tony Marshall.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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