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    US security firm in Kabul blast had high profile in Afghanistan

    News

    US security firm in Kabul blast had high profile in Afghanistan.

    Kabul, Afghanistan ( AFP), | 16:50msk, 30 August 2004|.

    Brandishing firearms and riding in sports vehicles with tinted windows, staff of US security firm DynCorp had already attracted much attention in the Afghan capital before their office was the target of a deadly bomb attack.

    The blast which killed at least seven people including three Americans was caused by a vehicle that exploded in front of DynCorp's offices in the downtown Shar-e-Naw district -- an area packed with international aid agency and United Nations offices.

    Dyncorp had a heavy presence in Kabul, providing much of the security for President Hamid Karzai's presidential guard and training Afghanistan's fledgling police force.

    In Afghanistan -- a country with an embryonic army and police force -- private security contracts are used by everyone from the country's president to US construction firms rebuilding the war-shattered country's roads.

    President Karzai stepped up his security and began using a US-trained presidential guard after he survived an assassination attempt in 2002, and many other foreign firms have followed suit.

    Visitors to the presidential palace are struck by the large numbers of US guards wearing dark glasses and civilian clothes who surround the Afghan leader.

    Karzai himself travels nowhere without his large retinue of private security guards wielding semi-automatic weapons.

    But like other contractors, DynCorp -- a division of California-based information technology company Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) -- may have become part of the problem in Afghanistan.

    The large numbers of westerners in plain-clothes wandering the streets of the Afghan capital with guns has provoked confusion and resentment from both Afghans and western aid agencies alike.

    "The city has been militarized, and more military people inside the city poses a greater threat for the civilians," said Sarwary, a 31-year-old money changer.

    Sarwary said that many Afghans were concerned that private security contractors were using locals as a human shield.

    "We know that they have got a mission: they help us with security. But it's not fair when they are sheltering behind civilians," he said adding that there were calls for many security firms to move to the outskirts of the city center.

    The widespread use of private security contractors has become so prevalent that it left the door wide open for vigilantes and bounty-hunters to operate here without many questions being asked.

    Three US citizens are currently on trial for illegally jailing and torturing Afghan citizens in a private 'war on terror', after duping both NATO-led peacekeepers and US troops that they were special forces.

    "There are so many guys wandering around Kabul with guns doing indeterminate jobs that all they had to do was blend in," said a US military source.

    The swagger and bluster with which many special forces and private security firms move around the capital has also sparked fears of attacks.

    "I never feel safe when an American vehicle passes by me -- you know they have enemies waiting to target them any time. When they are among people it's obvious we will also get hurt," said Mohammed Akram, a shopkeeper in the downtown Shar-e-Naw district where the bomb went off.

    Western aid agencies have also complained that the lines between US military, NATO-led peacekeepers and private security contractors have become so blurred it is impossible for aid workers to work safely in Afghanistan.

    Nobel prize-winning aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres pulled out of Afghanistan last month after 24 years saying it was no longer safe for independent aid agencies to work here.

    Sourcewww.afp.com  - .

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