IHT : aAfghan raid on suspected assassins

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Afghan raid on suspected assassins

By Abdul Waheed Wafa and Graham Bowley | April 30, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghan security forces attacked a house early Wednesday occupied by people suspected of plotting the foiled assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai. Officials said the clash left three militants dead, one of them a woman, and also killed a child. Three intelligence agents were also killed during the attack, according to reports.

Government officials announced the operation at a news conference in Kabul, the capital. They said the house was in a poor district in the western part of the city. They did not give the age of the child.

One of the officials, Amrullah Saleh, director of the National Security Directorate, said the operation was based on information given under interrogation by a person who had infiltrated the security forces and was arrested shortly after Sunday's assassination attempt on Karzai. The person gave three addresses in Kabul, and all of them were raided Wednesday, Saleh said.

The two sides fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic guns at each other over several hours, The Associated Press quoted Saleh as saying.

In the attack on the hide-out of those suspected in the assassination, he said, the government troops finally destroyed the two-story house with heavy weapons fire after the third intelligence agent had been killed and it was clear that the militants would not surrender, The AP reported.

One of the dead militants had supplied weapons used in the attack on Karzai, The AP quoted Saleh as saying.

Karzai escaped unharmed during the attack on a military parade on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Saleh admitted before Parliament that there had been negligence by some in the presidential guard and in his own intelligence service and possible complicity by some police officers, making it possible for the gunmen to fire from a hotel room, killing three people and wounding 11.

The attack at the parade ground sent government officials, diplomats and legislators scrambling for cover and caused a stampede of soldiers, embarrassing the government just as it was seeking to take over security of the capital from international forces.

In the account he gave on Tuesday, Saleh said one of his intelligence officers had warned the presidential guard that three men were acting suspiciously in the hotel room that was ultimately used in the attack.

The president's men kept a close guard on the room while Karzai was inspecting the troops on the parade ground in an open-topped vehicle, but when he drove off to the spectator stands, they dropped their guard. It was then, as the artillery fired a salute, that the attackers opened fire, he said.

The three attackers, who were all killed, have been identified, he said. He said that the plot was hatched on March 10 and that the attackers had rented the room overlooking the parade ground 45 days before the event. The room was searched two days before the parade, and nothing suspicious was found, the police and intelligence officials have confirmed.

There may have been a fourth plotter, who locked them into their room from the outside for the last 36 hours before the attack. The three did not leave the room after that.

Two of the gunmen may have killed themselves before security forces reached them. The third was shot by the security forces, Saleh said.