Afghan President Hamid Karzai broke off from a speech and was hustled safely away from a ceremony at Kabul’s sports stadium on Sunday after what sounded like gunshots in the vicinity, witnesses said.
State television showed Karzai, who has survived several assassination attempts in recent years by suspected Taliban members, being led from the stadium by his U.S.-trained bodyguards.
A government official told the audience to be calm, saying that what they had heard were not gunshots but stones being thrown by people who could not get into the heavily guarded stadium.
The ceremony was held to mark the sixth anniversary of the killing of Ahmad Shah Masood, the military leader of an anti-Taliban alliance, by a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber two days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
As Karzai was making his speech, one of his bodyguards approached him and spoke to the president, TV showed. Karzai then walked away from the podium, asking his bodyguard, “What is the story.”
People ran for cover thinking there had been an attack, a Reuters journalist at the scene said.
An estimated 25,000 people, including cabinet members and foreign diplomats had gathered at the stadium which is not far from the presidential palace.
Violence has escalated in Afghanistan in recent months. The United Nations said on Sunday that 103 suicide attacks were carried out between January and the end of April this year, a record.