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Karzai immediately announced an investigation to find out how the armed group breached security to hammer bullets into the back of the stage where he was seated with a host of Afghan and foreign dignitaries as well as launch rockets.

  

"First, it will investigate the plot and identify those behind the attack ... and second it will find out where the problem in providing security lay," General Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afhgan defence minister, told reporters.

  

The inquiry would comprise the ministries of defence and interior, the intelligence agency and the presidential security guard, the general said.

 

The incident

 
Gunfire and explosions erupted after Karzai had taken the stage after an inspection of troops in what was meant to have been the largest annual parade of Afghanistan's military.
 

Hamid Karzai


Karzai is a Pashtun leader favoured by the US military administration in Kabul and Washington

 

Worked as a consultant to Unocal, an oil company with significant oil interests in the region

 

He was handpicked to lead the country in December 2001, after a US-led invasion against the Taliban

 

He was confirmed as Afghanistan’s president in June 2002 by the country’s Loya Jirga (grand council)

 

Karzai's influence in Afghanistan is at its highest in the capital Kabul

 

Several attempts have been made to assassinate him, in attacks mostly blamed on Taliban fighters

Hundreds of people, including government ministers and foreign dignitaries, fled the celebration.

 

Al Jazeera's James Bays said the event was one of the key events in Afghanistan's calendar every year.

 

"Its called the Mujahidin Day. It marks the victory of the Mujahidin over the Soviet Union, some 16 years ago," he said.

 

Karzai sped off in a motorcade in the immediate wake of the attack, which continued for a further 15 minutes.

  

He appeared on television for a live address shortly after the incident, assuring the public that the incident was over and that some of the attackers had been caught.

 

"Fortunately Afghan security forces quickly surrounded them ... Some of them were captured," Karzai said.

 

"Everything is calm, rest assured," he said.

 

Taliban warning

 

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr said that the Taliban had warned that they would carry out some sort of operation to disrupt the ceremony.

 

"To them, this ceremony should not be taking place because they are against the government and the foreign forces," she said.

 

"They said the target was to give them a message that they are not safe. We have to point out that there was a very tight security around the venue of the military parade and [still] they managed to infiltrate."

 

The security breach comes only two months after an attack on the Serena hotel in the diplomatic area of Kabul, she said.

 

"There have been reports that the government has not been able to control even 30 per cent of the Afghan territory and now with this attack it is not clear how the Taliban managed to infiltrate the security guards of the president."

 

Expected attack

 

Prince Ali Seraj, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that the attack should have been expected by the authorities in Afghanistan.

 

The Taliban had warned of an attack to disrupt
the military ceremony  [AFP]

"When you have all the dignitaries and the president of the country and all the ministers and ambassadors gathered together at one place, such an attack should have been expected and I believe that the entire perimeter should have been fortified with police and security forces," he said.

 

"From what I heard from my people, attackers were in military uniform. It is difficult to distinguish one soldier from the other, if you are not acquainted with each other.

 

"A group of people dressed in military uniform can infiltrate any one of the operations and be able to do what they did. But I think tighter security and identification cards should have been in place on a day like this."

 

Seraj said that the attack on the event was designed to gain publicity, given that ambassadors, diplomats from the United Nations and Afghan ministers were in attendance.