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'LeT, ISI plotted Oct attack on Indian embassy in Kabul'

December 17, 2009 11:32 IST

The suicide bomb blast against the Indian embassy in Kabul in October was the handiwork of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, but in collaboration with a neighbouring 'state', high-level political and intelligence sources have said in Kabul.

In an exclusive conversation with Business Standard, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dafdar Spanta confirmed, for the first time, that the Afghan government had "information and evidence" that the October blasts were masterminded by the "same sources" that were behind the blast against the Indian embassy in July 2008.

Last year's bomb blast against the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital, in which 54 people, including two high-ranking Indian officers, died, was said to be the handiwork of the Sirajuddin Haqqani faction of the Pakistani Taliban, said to be based in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan and controlled by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.

Asked what he meant by the "same sources," Spanta would not say more, insisting that "investigations are still underway." But high-level sources in Kabul confirmed that the "finger-prints of the ISI were all over October's operation."

At the time of the October blast, Al Jazeera had quoted an unnamed Afghan official saying "this was an operation which was planned by a state and not a group of bandits."  The English website of the Arabic TV channel had then also quoted Sayyid Abdul Ghafoor, the head of the Afghan interior ministry's anti-crime unit, as saying that special kinds of explosives were used in the attack and that the vehicle used by the suicide bomber was not registered in Afghanistan.

The high-level sources in Kabul explained that the ISI's modus operandi in targeting Indian establishments in Afghanistan was to activate several terrorist cells at the same time, whether the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or the Haqqani faction of the Taliban, in the hope that one or the other would be successful in hitting its target.

Several Afghan politicians and strategic analysts pointed out that the ISI's motive in targeting Indian establishments in Afghanistan was to scare Delhi into scaling down its ubiquitous presence and significant development assistance to that country.India has committed $1.3 billion so far, of which about $750 million has been disbursed. Indian analysts, painting a global jehadi network for the LeT, point out that the LeT is no longer limited to the India-Pakistan arc of conflict, but employs presumed double agents like David Headley to carry out operations, as in Mumbai.

In Kabul, Afghan members of parliament Shinkai Karokhail, Shukria Barakzai, Mirahmad Joyenda and several others openly talked about "Pakistan's continuing support" for terrorist groups like Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami and Mullah Omar and accused the ISI of sheltering these anti-Afghan groups in Pakistani cities like Quetta and Miramshah.

They told this reporter that they were "not surprised" that the ISI continued to target Indian establishments, pointing out that the ISI "was not willing to give up control over terrorist groups who they believed could further their own strategic interest" in Afghanistan.

Now that US President Barack Obama has announced the timeline for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Afghan analysts said, it would reinforce the belief of the Afghan Taliban and their masters, the ISI, that they should wait out the withdrawal and return, "redoubled, to their former sphere of influence."

Jyoti Malhotra in Kabul