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Kabul hints at Pakistani spy link to Afghan attack Pakistan president defends anti-terror record

KABUL, Jan 20, (AFP): Afghanistan’s National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, on Sunday accused “foreign intelligence services” of being behind the deadly attack on a Kabul restaurant, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

Pakistan was the main supporter of the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan, and Afghan officials have long voiced suspicions about connections between the hardline movement and Islamabad’s powerful intelligence services. “The NSC said such sophisticated and complex attacks are not the work of the ordinary Taleban, and said without doubt foreign intelligence services beyond the border are behind such bloody attacks,” a statement from the palace said. “Beyond the border” is a phrase commonly used by the Afghan government to refer to neighbouring Pakistan. Taleban insurgents claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s suicide assault on a popular Lebanese restaurant in central Kabul in which 21 people, including 13 foreigners, were killed.

Among the dead were three Americans, two British citizens, two Canadians, the International Monetary Fund head of mission, and the Lebanese owner of the Taverna du Liban, which was a popular social venue for expats. In the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taleban were ousted in 2001, one attacker detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance to the restaurant before two other militants stormed inside and gunned down diners and staff.

The accusation of Pakistani involvement is likely to damage regional peace efforts as Pakistan, which is battling its own homegrown Taleban insurgency, is seen as crucial to encouraging the Afghan Taleban to open talks. Many Afghan Taleban leaders seek shelter in Pakistan, and Islamabad’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency is often accused of maintaining ties to the militants to ensure future influence in Afghanistan after US-led NATO troops withdraw. Pakistani officials were not immediately available to comment on the accusations from Kabul, but Islamabad has always denied any links with the Taleban.

President Karzai earlier condemned the restaurant attack and called on NATO forces “to target terrorism” in his country. Afghan officials on Sunday vowed to investigate how the suicide attackers penetrated one of the most secure parts of Kabul. Three police chiefs responsible for the Wazir Akbar Khan district have been suspended over the security breach

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