- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan on Thursday accused a powerful terrorist group with suspected ties to Pakistan’s spy agency of mounting a weekend assault on Afghan cities, and he demanded that Pakistan drive the militants out of safe havens.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that the Haqqani Network masterminded the attacks on the Afghan capital, where terrorists struck the parliament building and foreign diplomatic missions.

Gunmen and suicide bombers killed 11 Afghan soldiers and four civilians in the biggest assault on the capital in 10 years of war. They also hit three provincial capitals. Security forces killed 36 terrorists.

“There is no question in our mind that the Haqqanis were responsible for these attacks,” Mr. Crocker said.

“We know where their leadership lives, and we know where these plans are made. They’re not made in Afghanistan. They’re made in Miranshah, which is in North Waziristan, which is in Pakistan.

“We are pressing the Pakistanis very hard on this. They really need to take action.”

Mr. Crocker called on Pakistan to drive the terrorists out of their “safe havens” along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan repeatedly has denied any connection with the Haqqani Network, but top U.S. officials publicly have linked the terrorists to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

In September, Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Haqqanis a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service.

Mr. Crocker’s blunt call for action from Pakistan could renew tension in U.S.-Pakistani relations, a Pakistani intelligence officer told the Reuters news agency.

“What we are worried about is the pressure that’s going to come over North Waziristan,” he said. “We have no connection to the attack.”

‘SEARCH FOR JUSTICE’

Relatives of the victims of a Libyan bomb attack on an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, more than 20 years ago told Libya’s ambassador Thursday that they want more answers, not more money, in their “search for justice.”

Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am 103, tried to reassure Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali that the families of the 270 victims of the bombing support British authorities in their efforts to open a fresh investigation with the help of the new government in Libya.

“I want to assure you that the families of the U.S. victims of this bombing have no intention of seeking monetary compensation. Our efforts were never about money but instead were a search for justice,” Mr. Duggan wrote in a letter to the ambassador.

Mr. Duggan expressed concern about reports that Libyan authorities are suspicious of Britain’s request to reopen the investigation into the bombing of the Pan Am airliner, which exploded over Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988.

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt this week informed Parliament of “apprehension in some parts” of Libya’s National Transitional Council that London is after more compensation.

He insisted that the British effort is “about finding out the truth of the matter.”

Only one man was convicted of the bombing, but authorities always have suspected more Libyans were involved.

Abdelbaset al Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison in 2001, but the Scottish government released him in 2009, citing medical reports that said he had terminal cancer and would die within three months.

Megrahi, who returned to Libya to a hero’s welcome, is still alive.

Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed last year in the uprising that toppled his regime, never admitted responsibility for the bombing. However, he paid relatives of the victims $2.7 billion in restitution.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.