US and Afghan officials believe the assassination attempt against Afghan president Hamid Karzai was probably the work of fugitive members of the country’s ousted Taliban regime rather than al-Qaida terrorists, defence officials have said.
The foiled assassination bid last Thursday in the southern city of Kandahar and a deadly car bombing a few hours earlier in the capital, Kabul, marked the worst day of violence since the Taliban militia was driven from power.
“A lot of the violence - including, we may well find out, the assassination attempt on Karzai - are the product of remnants of the old regime that are still around, that are still trying to kill us and kill our allies and make way for terrorists,” US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz has said, in an interview with AP Radio and AP Television News.
Another senior defence official later said that intelligence gathered so far pointed to the Taliban.
Yet another possibility includes the forces of the former prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, or old tribal enemies.
Afghan provincial authorities in Kandahar said the gunman who shot at Karzai, identified as Abdul Rahman, came from a pro-Taliban district west of the city. They also said they suspected fugitive Taliban agents - rather than al-Qaida - were behind the assassination attempt.
“This was Muslims killing Muslims, not Muslims killing foreign infidels,” Wolfowitz said of the shooting and bombing that day that killed 30 people.
Wolfowitz was responding to a question on the state of security in Afghanistan, where US-led forces 11 months ago began a military campaign to crush Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban rulers who harboured him.
He labelled as absurd recent criticism that security in the South Asian country appeared to be collapsing.
“Let’s think where it was a year ago,” he said. “It was under the control of a tyrannical regime that had several million people on the edge of famine who were their enemies. Nobody was safe in that country.”
The continued movement of al Qaida figures back and forth across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was a persistent problem, Wolfowitz said.
“We’re making steady progress,” he said.