Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been rising for months. Now, they have hit a new peak.
For the first time, Afghanistan's National Security Department on June 25 publicly accused Pakistan's intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of masterminding an attempt to assassinate Afghan President Hamid Karzai in April.
Karzai was attending a military parade in Kabul on April 27 alongside Afghan officials and foreign diplomats when attackers fired shots and launched mortar rounds at Karzai. Three Afghans were killed in the attack, but Karzai was unharmed.
A spokesman for the National Security Department, Sayed Ansari, told a news conference in Kabul that a government investigation has determined that Pakistan agents were behind the attack. "From the process of reviewing the case, documents, and evidence, it appears that the real organizer of the terror attack on the 8th of Sawr [April 27], the anniversary of the victory of the Afghan mujahedin, was the Pakistani Intelligence Service, the ISI and its agents, who committed such an unforgivable crime against the Muslims and mujahedin of Afghanistan," Ansari said.
Ansari's comments were the first charge from an Afghan official specifically accusing the ISI of the attack on Karzai, and come amid mounting tensions between the two countries. Last week, Karzai threatened to send Afghan forces into Pakistan to fight Islamic militants who are based in the Pakistani border regions and launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, reacting to the accusations, said, "Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against other countries, especially Afghanistan."
But Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudry Ahmad Mukhtar was more combative. He denied Ansari's accusation, saying it was an attempt by Karzai, who faces reelection next year, to "prolong his rule."
Afghanistan's security agency claimed it had documents and confessions of people arrested after the assassination attempt. The agency’s head, Amrullah Saleh, said last month that some of the suspects had exchanged cell phone text messages with people in Pakistan's tribal regions, along the border with Afghanistan, and in Peshawar.
Ansari told reporters the cell phones had been used to call numbers with the prefix 92, the country code for Pakistan. Ansari declined to say what concrete evidence the intelligence service had of ISI involvement, saying only that Afghan authorities “are sure and confident" of the connection.
This fresh dispute between the two countries comes after a U.S. air strike in Pakistan on June 11 that Pakistani officials say killed 11 Pakistani soldiers.
with material from news agency reports. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report