Afghan security forces arrested nine members of a terrorist cell and seized a substantial amount of explosives, foiling a plot to stage suicide bombings and other attacks in Kabul, the country’s intelligence service said today.
The arrests mark the second time in recent weeks that the security services claim to have prevented major attacks on the capital, a result they say of better training and use of informants.
Intelligence service spokesman Saeed Ansari said four of the suspects were arrested while travelling in a vehicle in the city’s eastern district, while five others were picked up at an Islamic school in Kabul.
He said security forces also confiscated six rifles, two machine guns, two rocket-propelled grenades, 440 pounds of explosives, six suicide bomb vests and a vehicle. The dates of the arrests were not disclosed.
The suspects, one of whom was a Pakistani citizen, ranged in age from 16 to 55 and had been given specific responsibilities within the group such as for arranging accommodation or transporting arms, Ansari said.
Three of the group were identified as would-be suicide bombers, although Ansari said the cell possessed enough explosives and vests to equip up to six suicide attackers.
He said the group was acting under orders from a Pakistan-based Taliban faction, which had rented a house in eastern Kabul, shipped weapons across the border and provided funds for the purchase of a vehicle to be used in suicide attacks.
The arrests follow the interception of a vehicle on April 8 on the outskirts of Kabul carrying what police said were five would-be suicide bombers on their way to carry out a major attack in the city – the largest such team ever detained in the capital.
Police said at the time that the bombers were sent by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group based in Pakistan, and their capture follows widespread rumours that militants were planning attacks in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul.
The last major attack within Kabul took place on February 26 when suicide bombers struck two small hotels in the centre of the city, killing at least 16 people, including six Indians. Afghan authorities blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same Pakistan-based Islamist militia that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people.
Also today, Afghanistan’s defence ministry said an explosion, possibly involving land mines or mortars, killed one Afghan army soldier and wounded three during a military training exercise in Kabul.