21 Apr 2012

Afghanistan arrest men smuggling 400 bags of explosives

Five men who smuggled 10,000 kilograms of explosives from Pakistan into Afghanistan are captured by security forces who suspect they were plotting a massive attack in Kabul.

The explosives were packed in 400 bags and hidden under potatoes loaded in a truck with Pakistani licence plates. Three other suspects were arrested for allegedly planning to kill the vice president, an Afghan official said.

The arrests come a week after militants from the Haqqani network, believed to be part of a Pakistan-based group, launched co-ordinated assaults in and around Kabul. U.S. officials are pressuring Islamabad to crack down on the network, which specialises in high-profile strikes.

Taliban ties

Three of the five men arrested with the explosives were members of the Pakistani Taliban. The other two belonged to the Afghan Taliban, Shafiqullah Tahiry, a spokesman for the national director for security, told reporters. Their orders came from militant leaders with ties to Pakistani intelligence, he said.

“Imagine if 10,000 kilograms of explosives, which was already inside Kabul” had exploded, “what a disaster could have happened,” Tahiry said.

Tahiry said the men confessed that they had planned to carry out a terrorist attack in a key point in Kabul city, but he didn’t name the target or say when the arrests were made.

Pakistani intelligence

He claimed the three Pakistani members of the group picked up the explosives outside the Pakistani city of Peshawar, and were under the orders of two local Taliban leaders with ties to Pakistan’s country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, called the ISI.

Security forces have also stopped a Haqqani network assassination attempt against Afghan Vice-President Mohammed Karim Khalili, he said. The three Afghan men were arrested 15 April, the day the Kabul attacks began. The men were equipped with suicide vests and planned to kill Khalili at his home.

According to Tahiry, the order to kill Khalili was issued in Miram Shah by Haqqani network commander Badruddin Haqqani. Last May, the U.S. designated Badruddin Haqqani a terrorist.

U.S. pressure

Afghan officials often blame Pakistan and the ISI for supporting militant groups in the country’s lawless areas along the Afghan border. The Pakistani government vehemently denies the claims.

Last week’s co-ordinated assaults left eight policemen and three civilians dead along with 36 militants, Afghan officials said.

On Thursday the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said that there was “no question” that the Haqqani network was behind that attack and said Pakistan needed to do more to clamp down on the group.