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LIVE FROM KABUL

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 31, 2006 04:33 PM

Bill Roggio of The Counterterrorism Blog is there, reporting on the riot aftermath:

The violence was not Taliban-inspired, but composed mainly of Hazaris. The Haziris are an ethnic group that fought the Taliban under the banner of the Northern Alliance and followers of Ahmad Shah Masood , who was killed by al-Qaeda two days prior to 9-11. Masood’s image is prevalent in Kabul. The Hazaris have recently been marginalized by the Karzai administration after they lost their last cabinet post. The rioters were largely young, unemployed males, and there was a significant criminal element involved.

I spoke to several aid workers, contractors and Afghanis about the violence, and their conclusion was the demonstrations were organized, and the traffic accident was merely a catalyst. While there is frustration with driving habits of Western contractors and the military (particularly with the aggressive driving of some security company employees), the subsequent violence was primarily directed at the Karzai administration The neighborhood was targeted because of its relatively light security and the high-profile institutions that are housed there. There is concern among the community about the current security situation in Afghanistan, particularly with the increase in violence in southeastern Iraq and the murder of eight aid workers.

I also spoke to an American woman who lives in the neighborhood where the riots broke out. She was present during the riots and her home was right behind the brothel that was torched. She described how the mobs came in waves. She witnessed three waves before being evacuated, and each successive wave included a progression of violence. The first wave consisted of angry protesters banging on gates and shouting, the second included gunshots, and the third included detonated hand grenades and overturned cars.

There have been questions about the performance of police’s performance during the riots. Jawed Ludin, President Hamid Karzai’s Chief of Staff, described the police’s performance as “shameful” and stated “we have to strengthen our police.” There have been reports that some police joined in the violence. But their performance was not a complete failure. Subduing a violent riot within eight hours is no small feat (see the past and current riots in France), particularly for a relatively new police and military. There has been no follow-on violence two days after the accident. And the American woman who escaped the riots in her neighborhood grudgingly gave credit to the police, which she is critical of for being heavy handed at times.

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