Al-Qaeda, Taliban behind Afghan suicide attacks: FM

January 21, 2006 - 0:0
KABUL (AFP) -- The suicide attacks that have struck Afghanistan in the past months are clearly the work of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban fighters operating with foreign support, the Afghan foreign minister said Thursday.

Abdullah Abdullah rejected a statement from a purported spokesman of the Taliban regime ousted in 2001 that the group was not behind a suicide blast on Monday that killed 22 people, the highest toll in a spate of such attacks. "The fact that the Taliban denied carrying out the attack in Spin Boldak shouldn't be taken into account," Abdullah said in an interview with AFP. "Who else could do that? Only Taliban and Al-Qaeda." "Security incidents come from Al-Qaeda or Taliban. They get some support from outside Afghanistan, people crossing the border from Pakistan."

"The suicide bombers are mostly foreigners," he said, declining to say where they might be from.

There have been about 20 suicide blasts in insurgency-hit Afghanistan in the past four months. The attackers are widely believed to cross into the country from bases in the largely lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.

Monday's attack on a crowd leaving a wrestling match in Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan was the deadliest of the attacks, previously rare in Afghanistan.

The Taliban spokesman denied responsibility, saying the group did not target civilians.

He said however the group was behind another suicide bombing in insurgency-hit Kandahar province on Monday which killed four people and one on Sunday that killed the most senior Canadian envoy in Afghanistan and two Afghans.

Analysts said the attacks could be intended as a warning to NATO troops due to deploy in the coming months into troubled southern Afghanistan, where a US-led coalition of around 20,000 troops has been based for about four years to hunt down militants.

Abdullah said the situation in the south, a hotbed of insurgency-linked attacks, was not likely to change and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should have the same counter-insurgency capacity as the coalition.

"The (NATO) force should be ready to deal with that. I'm sure that ISAF will maintain these (coalition) capabilities," he said.

ISAF currently operates largely as a peacekeeping force in Kabul and northern and western regions.

Concerns about the violence are behind resistance in the Netherlands to its planned contribution of about 1,100 to ISAF.

Abdullah said he hoped the Dutch troops would join the force. "They have strong support from the Afghan government," he said.

Attacks linked to the Taliban-led insurgency claimed more than 1,500 lives last year.