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Victim was visiting Afghan leader

Elderly man shot by Canadian taught Karzai in grade school

Brian Hutchinson, Ottawa Citizen, 14 Dec 06

Article Link

 

An elderly motorcyclist killed by a Canadian soldier was a beloved local celebrity with close personal ties to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

 

Believed to be at least 90 years of age - making him one of Afghanistan's oldest citizens - Abdul Rahman was the president's former primary school teacher.

 

He was the oldest member of Kandahar's provincial assembly and a noted political scientist.

 

Rahman enjoyed paying the president impromptu visits, according to his brother-in-law, who spoke to CanWest News Service outside a crowded mosque where the dead man was being mourned yesterday.

 

Rahman was famous for riding around Kandahar city on his battered motorcycle, despite his advanced age.

 

He was apparently trying to drop in, unannounced, as Karzai directed a summit on security issues at the governor's palace when he was shot Tuesday afternoon.

 

Rahman drove straight through an initial security cordon, travelling at "a high rate of speed," Canadian military officials said.

 

It seems likely local police had recognized Rahman, and had allowed him to pass.

 

He then approached a second barrier, closer to the palace, and continued forward despite verbal warnings.

 

A Canadian soldier guarding the venue then fired a single warning shot. The bullet ricocheted off the pavement and struck Rahman, according to Canadian Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips.

 

It is not known when Karzai became aware his former teacher had died, and he has offered no public comment.

 

But a military source said Canadian officials are now aware Rahman was "someone important."

 

The International Security Assistance Force, the Canadian-supported military operation in Afghanistan, issued a terse news release yesterday.

 

"ISAF deeply regrets the loss of life to civilians," it read. "It is not known why the motorcyclist failed to stop when clear signals were given, and a full and thorough investigation has commenced."

 

According to his brother-in-law, Rahman probably felt he had something crucial to share with Karzai.

 

"He may not have heard the (verbal) warning," Mohammad Amin added.

 

Joining Karzai for discussions at the security summit were tribal elders, religious leaders, and foreign dignitaries, including David Sproule, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, and Kevin Lynch, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet.

 

Last year, Rahman travelled to Kabul in an attempt to visit the president.

 

"He went to Karzai's palace," recalled one of the mourners yesterday. "The guards there would not let him in. There was a long discussion and finally, Karzai himself came out of the palace to greet him."

 

Amin estimated his elderly brother-in-law "was 90 years old."

 

"No," said another mourner. "He was 106."

 

Many Afghans can only guess how old they are because birth certificates are seldom issued here and few people place much emphasis on age.

 

The average life span for Afghan men is 44 years.

 

Whatever his precise age, Rahman was "quite healthy" and of sound mind, noted Amin.

 

"The whole community is deeply saddened that he is gone," he added outside the mosque Rahman used to attend.

 

But mourners did not express shock yesterday, nor did they direct any anger at Canada or Canadian troops operating in Kandahar.

 

"It was a terrible thing that happened," said Abdulhanan, who like many Afghans goes by just one name. "But terrible things happen here daily. We have become too used to death."

 

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