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Afghanistan: Bombing Suspects Confess To Plot

By Nancy-Amelia Collins

Kabul, 30 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan authorities say two men who were detained in Kabul yesterday -- in a car packed with explosives -- have confessed they intended to target a government official or members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The car was stopped after a chance traffic accident near the U.S. embassy in Kabul and was found to contain 500 to 600 kilograms of explosives rigged with detonating devices.

The chief of security affairs at the Afghan Interior Ministry, General Din Mohammad Jurat, said today that there were originally three people in the car but one managed to escape.

Jurat said the two captured men revealed their plan under questioning. He said one of the men may be a foreigner. "They had two major strategies: one, to explode the bomb by a remote-control device and cause damage, seeking to strike an important official; second, failing that attempt, to blow up the car close to one of ISAF's centers," Jurat said.

The Kabul authorities have ordered extra troops to be deployed in the capital. The search for the third occupant of the vehicle continues.

Presidential spokesman Said Fazel Akbar told RFE/RL that it is likely those involved in the alleged bombing plot attempt are linked to Al-Qaeda, but he said the government has no proof of this yet. "We have this enemy like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and they are in Afghanistan right now. [Before,] they were very big forces here, and now they are not able to carry out some large operation and big activities, but they are able to do some terrorist activity, individual activity like this, to explode a bomb or [to carry out a] terrorist attack," Akbar said.

Members of the Taliban, who were ousted in a U.S.-led campaign last year, and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network are believed to be hiding in parts of eastern and southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. U.S.-led coalition troops have been conducting operations in those areas to flush out remnants of these groups, who allegedly move back and forth across the border.

An ISAF spokeswoman, Major Angela Herbert, told a press conference today that ISAF has no information on the matter and cannot speculate on who the intended target of the apparent bombing attempt may have been. Herbert said ISAF is not on heightened security after the incident.

Presidential spokesman Akbar said the transitional government of President Hamid Karzai needs the support of ISAF troops as it attempts to rebuild the country. "We need ISAF's cooperation to keep the security inside Kabul, and maybe outside Kabul," Akbar said.

Fears of instability and security concerns have heightened in the capital since the assassination of Vice President Hadji Abdul Qadir on 6 July. Qadir was a staunch Karzai supporter and a fellow ethnic Pashtun. His murder came just five months after the minister of tourism, Abdul Rahman, was killed at Kabul airport. Both murders remain unsolved.