Assassination was planned in Pakistan, Afghanistan charges

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 1, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials said Saturday that they have provided Pakistan with evidence that the assassination of the top Afghan peace negotiator was plotted in Quetta, Pakistan.

Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security, the main Afghan intelligence agency, provided the first details about who planned Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination and where.

"A confession from the people we have detained in connection with the assassination of Mr. Rabbani shows a direct connection" to the the Taliban leadership council in Quetta, Mashal said. Rabbani's killing was planned in a town called Satellite, near Quetta, Mashal told a press conference.

The intelligence material, which was handed over to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, included an address, photographs and a layout of a house in Satellite, with the names of the people who discussed the assassination, Mashal said.

Rabbani, a prominent Tajik leader from northern Afghanistan, was killed in his residence by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his turban. Rabbani was head of the High Peace Council, a government initiative to broker peace with the Taliban. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Hours after the killing, a Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the death, but later the Taliban issued a statement denying that it had claimed responsibility.

After the assassination, President Hamid Karzai appointed a commission to investigate the killing and find the plotters.

In a rare and exclusive interview with a local TV channel, Karzai said that the Afghan government will share its finding with the Pakistani government and seek its support. "If we don't reach to an agreement we will refer the case to the United Nations," he said.

In the wake of Rabbani's assassination, the Afghan government is questioning the productivity of the peace talks with the Taliban. On Saturday in a prerecorded video statement that was released by his office, Karzai said that trying to talk with the Taliban is pointless and Pakistan, not the Taliban, should the other party in the peace negotiations.

Last week in a meeting at the presidential palace, Karzai and other prominent political and religious figures expressed similar concerns.

"Despite making repeated attempts in the past three years, including sending several letters to the Taliban to open negotiations in order to bring peace and stability to the country, our leaders, scholars, influential figures, elders, women and children, old and young are being martyred," said a palace statement issued after the meeting.

Also Saturday, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force announced that it has detained Haji Mali Khan, a prominent insurgent commander in the east of the country.

Khan, a prominent commander in the Haqqani network, managed bases and had oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"In the past year, Haji Mali Khan established a militant camp in Mangal tribal lands in Paktia province, coordinated the transfer of money for insurgents operations, and facilitated the acquisition of supplies," the statement said.

The Haqqani network, which is believed to be enjoying sanctuaries and safe heavens in the tribal areas of Pakistan, is one of the few different insurgent groups fighting the Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The group is known for carrying out complex coordinated attacks on Afghan and foreign facilities. On Sept. 13, a group of Haqqani fighters occupied a high-rise building near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and showered the ISAF headquarters and the embassy with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifle fire. The attack lasted for almost 20 hours, killed seven civilians and wounded many others.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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