Hamid Karzai: Plot to kill president foiled by Afghanistan intelligence
A plot to kill President Hamid Karzai has been foiled by Afghan intelligence agents in Kabul who arrested six men with links to al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network.
By Lianne Gutcher in Kabul
6:30PM BST 05 Oct 2011
Source - Telegraph, UK
A plot to kill Afghan president Hamid Karzai, above, has been foiled Photo: REUTERS
The discovery of the plot comes just two days before the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11 attacks in the US and, had it been successful, would have plunged the country further into chaos.
The arrested men – a university professor, three university students, a Kabul resident and an employee of the presidential palace – were said to have been recruited by two Arabs with ties to al-Qaeda based in Miran Shan in Waziristan. "This group was highly sophisticated and highly educated," Lotfullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said.
A source in Pakistan tipped off the Afghan spy agency that a group of Afghan doctors had travelled to a terrorist training camp in Waziristan to learn how to use suicide vests.
Intelligence officers then mounted an undercover operation at Kabul University to track down the would-be assassins.
As well as plotting to kill the Afghan president, data seized during the arrests showed that the men were also planning attacks in Kabul as well as Europe and the US.
It is believed the assassins would have struck on one of Mr Karzai's trips to the provinces, Mr Mashal said. "But before these plots could happen the NDS was able to arrest them."
President Karzai's administration has been thrown into turmoil by a series of targeted assassinations that have wiped out a number of his closest allies and confidantes.
The president's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed by one of his bodyguards at his home in Kandahar in July. Two weeks ago Burhannudin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and High Peace Council chief, died after a suicide bomber pretending to be a Taliban peace messenger blew himself up at Rabbani's house in Kabul.
"This is a very sophisticated network that is al-Qaeda related," Mr Mashal said. "Information and data that we found on computers that we seized showed they were also planning attacks on guesthouses in Wazir Akbar Khan and on posh, 5-star hotels in Kabul."
Wazir Akbar Khan is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Kabul and many embassies are located there.
One of the Afghan men was arrested 10 days ago. After questioning, he revealed the identities of the other members of the group. All six men confessed to plotting to kill President Karzai and the NDS has recording of these confessions.
"They all had very good IT skills," said Mr Mashal. "And they were in contact with lots of Arabic speakers in all parts of the world."
The recruiters were named as Safiullah al-Mesri, an Egyptian, and Abdullah Bengali, a Bangladeshi.
The palace employee was named as Muhidullah Ahmadi.
This is not the first time that students from Kabul University have been linked to terrorist plots.
A medical faculty student planned a suicide attack on the national military hospital in Kabul in May. A Pakistani carried out the attack, killing six people. President Karzai has just returned from a two-day trip to India. His office said it was working on a statement.
Mr Mashal said the discovery of the plot and the arrest of the terrorists showed that the Afghan security forces were ready to take over responsibly for security in the country.
Security was handed over to Afghan troops from international troops in seven key areas in July.
However, the security situation in Kabul has deteriorated dramatically.
In mid-September, terrorists managed to penetrate Kabul's diplomatic area and wage a 20-hour attack on the US embassy and the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force.