Kabul attack: U.S. warning was accurate

August 03, 2008 12:00 am | Updated October 09, 2016 01:12 pm IST

Praveen Swami

Afghanistan’s secret service too notified India that an attack was imminent

India believes Pakistan’s covert services sponsored several such attacks in the past

India was charged with “following a plan of destroying Pakistan”

NEW DELHI: Afghan investigators believe that the suicide bomber who crashed an explosives-laden car into the Indian Embassy in Kabul last month was a Pakistani national.

Intelligence sources said Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Hamza Shakoor, tentatively identified as a 22-year-old resident of Pakistan’s Gujranwala district, is believed to have driven the white sports utility vehicle used to bomb the Indian mission.

Over 100 kg of military-grade explosives were welded into the chassis of the SUV, leading to an explosion in which 54 people, including four Indian diplomats and guards, were killed.

Shakoor, intelligence sources say, is thought to have been recruited by the Lashkar in 2006. He trained at Lashkar camps before being despatched on his mission.

According to the sources, Shakoor was first tasked with participating in a fidayeen-style commando attack on the mission, but then he volunteered to carry out the suicide attack himself after its defences were upgraded just days before the attack.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has promised an independent investigation into the Kabul attack after a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Colombo.

Evidence has been mounting of Pakistani involvement in the Kabul bombings. Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had provided wireless intercepts of communications between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and the Kabul bombers.

Several covert services had succeeded in penetrating the plot to bomb the Indian embassy.

Afghanistan’s secret service, the Riyasat-e-Amniyat-e-Milli, notified India that an attack was imminent on June 23. Based on source reports and communications intelligence, RAM said the ISI had instructed Afghanistan-based jihadists to target the Indian mission. Its report said terrorists linked to al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani planned to stage a fidayeen assault on the mission. RAM’s head of diplomatic security spent three nights camped at the Embassy, working to put counter-measures in place.

India’s RAW corroborated the Afghan warning three days after RAM’s report. Based on communications intelligence and informants’ reports, RAW said the attack would most likely be carried out using a Toyota suburban utility vehicle.

Less than a week before the bombing, United States intelligence personnel monitoring terrorist communications in Afghanistan obtained new information on the attack. Plans to execute a fidayeen strike, they learned, had been dropped. Instead, a car-bomb was being prepared. Government sources said this last warning was accurate down to the last detail, even asserting that the vehicle would have a Kabul licence plate.

Pakistan’s covert services, India believes, have sponsored several past attacks on New Delhi’s diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who heads the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s parent spiritual and political organisation, is alleged to have praised Shakoor at a closed-door meeting of cadre soon after the July 7 bombing. He held out the recruit’s actions as a model for other young volunteers.

Earlier, during a May 9 sermon at the Jamia Masjid al-Qudsia in Lahore, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed had charged India with “following a plan of destroying Pakistan.”

India, Saeed continued, “is building dams on rivers flowing into the country. On the other hand, it is establishing training centres in Afghanistan where it is teaching its agents how to carry out terrorist acts in Pakistan. While our rulers insist that we should have good relations with the Afghan government, India is imposing wars upon us. Still, our rulers, pursuing a policy of unilateral friendship under foreign pressure, have promised the world we will not fight with India.”

Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the parent organisation of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba, which in turn is a member of the al-Qaeda-led International Islamic Front. It has close links with Islamist warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is thought to have provided much of the logistical infrastructure for the Kabul bombing.

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