Thursday, June 20, 2024

Pak terror groups blamed for Afghan attacks


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Washington: Fingers of blame for Afghanistan’s first major sectarian assault since the fall of Taliban regime 10 years ago are pointing to radical terror groups in Pakistan, raising fears among US officials that more such groups may now be operating in the strife-torn country.

The attacks among the wars deadliest struck across the country, hitting targets in capital Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif almost simultaneously, killing at least 63 Shiite mourners on Ashura.

Targetted sectarian strikes are alien to Afghanistan, New York Times reported, saying that it was no surprise that responsibility was claimed by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The group, NYT said, had not previously claimed or carried out attacks in Afghanistan, but its sudden emergence across the border, has fuelled suspicions that al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan’s spy agency ISI may have teamed up with the group to send the message that Afghanistan’s future stability remained deeply tenuous and indeed dependent in the cooperation of outside forces.

The actual intentions of those behind on Tuesday’s attacks remained murky because of the group’s tangled history, which once operated openly in Pakistan with the support of its spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, but has since been outlawed.

In recent years it has struck up alliances with al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of Pakistani militants that has attacked Pakistan’s cities and security forces numerous times.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is inspired by a fundamentalist Deobandi philosophy that justifies killing Shiites because of their beliefs, and it has on several occasions attacked Americans, Christians and other Muslim minorities as well.

There is no record of previous operations by the group in Afghanistan, however, so no one seriously thought Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could carry out a coordinated series of bombings in three Afghan cities without substantial support from other sources.

“Never in our history have there been such cruel attacks on religious observances,” said President Hamid Karzai, in a statement released by his office.

“The enemies of Afghanistan do not want us to live under one roof with peace and harmony,” he said.

The timing of the attacks was especially pointed, coming a day after an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, that had been viewed as an opportunity for Afghanistan to cement long-term support from the West.

But the conference fell considerably short of the objectives that officials had envisioned because Taliban insurgents and Pakistani diplomats did not attend. Pakistan pulled out of the conference as a protest over the deaths of 24 of its soldiers in an American airstrike, carried out from Afghan territory, which American officials have depicted as the result of a misunderstanding.

Critics of Pakistan were quick to read Monday’s boycott and on Tuesday’s bombings as a signal from the Pakistanis, delivered by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that Afghanistan could not ignore Pakistan.

Prominent Hazara leaders, including MP Abdul Sajadi, said that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could not have carried out the attack without the backing of Taliban, mainly the Haqqani network.

US officials, media report said, were concerned over new Pakistani terror groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi expanding their operations in Afghanistan. They said besides the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Toiba has also set up training camps in the volatile North Waziristan region in Pakistan.

Kabul’s police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, was aware of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim, which was reported by the BBC and Radio Free Europe quoting the group’s spokesman, Qari Abubakar.

But he said none of the Pakistan-based extremists could carry out operations without Taliban support. “All the militant groups have very good cooperation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, so I am sure they were aware of it,” he said. (PTI)


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