Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan authorities broke up what they said was an assassination plot against President Hamid Karzai by men linked to al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network.
Six people have been arrested, including an employee at the presidential palace, the spokesman for the national intelligence service said. A professor at Kabul university, three university students, and another man were also arrested, according to the Associated Press.
The six, detained last week, are affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani faction of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, said Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Directorate. The group “was very close to conducting their attack,” Mashal said in a phone interview yesterday.
Karzai was due to return to Kabul yesterday from an official visit to India. Mashal gave no details about how or when the alleged plot was to be launched.
The palace staff suspect, named Mohibullah Ahmadi, was from the president’s native village of Karz in southern Afghanistan, Mashal said. He denied reports that Ahmadi was a bodyguard and declined to described the man’s palace role.
The Taliban have conducted prominent strikes in Kabul in the past month. Afghanistan blames them for the killing two weeks ago of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Karzai’s chief envoy seeking peace talks with the insurgents. The attacks, including an assault on the American embassy that the U.S. blamed on the Haqqani faction, have heightened tensions between Pakistan and both Afghanistan and the U.S.
The Haqqani faction is based largely in Pakistan’s border district of North Waziristan. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen said before retiring last month as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the group operates as a proxy force guided by Pakistan’s main military intelligence agency. Pakistan denied Mullen’s accusation.
Karzai has survived at least two assassination attempts, including a guerrilla assault on a military parade he was viewing in Kabul in 2008. A gunman fired on him in 2002 while he visited the southern city of Kandahar.
--Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow
To contact the reporters on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul at firstname.lastname@example.org; James Rupert in New Delhi at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at firstname.lastname@example.org