- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan intelligence officials said Wednesday that they had broken up a cell that plotted to kill President Hamid Karzai, arresting six people in Kabul who they claimed were affiliated with al Qaeda and the Haqqani militant group.

Intelligence service spokesman Latifullah Mashal said the cell included one of Mr. Karzai‘s bodyguards as well as a professor at Kabul university and three college students.

Mr. Mashal described the cell as the “most sophisticated and educated group in Kabul” and said that it had assisted Pakistani militants sent to the Afghan capital to carry out terror attacks. He did not say when they were arrested.

He said the group, which also allegedly planned attacks in Kabul, the United States and Europe, was recruited by an Egyptian and a Bangladeshi based in Pakistan.

Afghan officials have been increasingly vocal in publicly accusing Pakistan and its ISI intelligence agency of maintaining ties with militants, including the Haqqani group. On Tuesday, they claimed that Pakistani officials had advance knowledge of the Sept. 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistan has denied the charges, but the accusations have further strained relations between the two nations, which share a 1,500-mile border.

The Haqqani militant group, a lethal threat to U.S.-led coalition forces, has been blamed by U.S. intelligence officials and others for a number of high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent years, including hotel bombings and the Sept. 12 assault on the U.S. Embassy.

Mr. Mashal identified the two recruiters as an Egyptian named Sayifullah and a man from Bangladesh named Abdullah, who were based in Miram Shah, the capital of Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, where the Haqqani group and other militants operate with relative freedom.

Mr. Mashal said the six Afghans were recruited “to carry out suicide attacks in Kabul, plan and coordinate bigger international attacks in the U.S. and parts of Europe and a luxury hotel in Kabul.”

“They also were responsible for recruiting one of the key security guards of President Karzai’s protective services. They had a plan to assassinate President Karzai maybe during his travels or trips to the provinces,” the Afghan intelligence spokesman said.

He did not disclose details about attacks the cell reportedly planned in the United States or Europe.

Those arrested were:

• Dr. Emal Habib Asadullah, a medical professor and director of microbiology at Kabul University.

• Mubullah Ahmadi, who is from Mr. Karzai‘s hometown of Karz in southern Afghanistan. Mr. Ahmadi worked as a guard at the presidential palace.

• Rahmatullah Ramin, a fourth-year medical student at Kabul University.

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