South Asia

Afghans say Karzai assassination plot foiled

Hamid Karzai in Delhi. 5 Oct 2011
Image caption President Hamid Karzai is currently on a two-day official visit to India

Afghan intelligence officials say they have arrested six people who they believe were planning to assassinate President Hamid Karzai.

The alleged plotters had recruited one of Mr Karzai's bodyguards and had possible links to the militant Haqqani network, the officials said.

Analysts say the arrests may be seen as part of a plan to discredit Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries are tense over alleged links between Pakistan and Haqqani militants.

Militants have killed a string of high-profile figures in Afghanistan in recent months.

"A dangerous and educated group including teachers and students wanted to assassinate President Hamid Karzai," National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told a news conference.

"Unfortunately they infiltrated the presidential protection system and recruited one of the president's bodyguards."

Mr Mashal said those arrested had ties with a member of al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network based in North Waziristan, in Pakistan's restive tribal belt.

The group was arrested a week ago after members of the elite Afghan forces raided two locations in Kabul's district 15 and in the eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said.

The six had carried out training for the attack last month, they added.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, says that according to counter-terrorism sources, $150,000 (£97,000) had been wired to the group from outside the country. Laptops had been seized showing proposed targets and locations in Kabul, and also movements inside key government institutions, they said.

Our correspondent says security officials believe the group had been trained by two Arab instructors in North Waziristan.

An Afghan government official told AFP news agency that the NDS was still hunting for others involved in the alleged plot.

President Karzai has been the target of at least three assassination attempts since becoming Afghan leader in 2002.

Last month, Mr Karzai's envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani - charged with making peace with the Taliban - was killed by a suicide bomber.

Afghan security officials said his killer was Pakistani and accused Islamabad of not co-operating in the investigation, a charge denied by Pakistan.

In July, the president's brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was assassinated by a security guard at his home in the southern city of Kandahar.

On Wednesday, Mr Karzai sought to reassure Pakistan about a strategic partnership agreement he signed with India in Delhi on Tuesday.

"Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother," he said.

In another development on Wednesday, Nato-led forces said an air strike had killed a senior Haqqani commander and two other militants in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province.

The senior figure, named only as Dilawar, was "another significant loss for the insurgent group", the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said in a statement.