- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan American military officials believe an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is being planned for the day after the end of the loya jirga, the tribal grand national assembly that is supposed to determine Afghanistan's political future later this month.
On Wednesday, U.S. Marines guarding the embassy detained a man photographing the walled, strongly fortified compound from a slow-moving white van. Military intelligence and other sources said it was the second such incident in two weeks.
Earlier, another man in a maroon van had been detained under the same circumstances. The military newspaper Stars and Stripes first reported the two detentions on Thursday.
Violence is widely expected in Kabul during or immediately after the six-day meeting beginning Monday. The loya jirga will bring together representatives of Afghanistan's complex and conflict-ridden patchwork of ethnic groups and tribes.
"Something is definitely going to happen," a military official told United Press International.
U.S. officials are on special alert for car bombs. Suicide bombers are not expected to be part of the assault, another military official told UPI.
[Meanwhile, U.S. and British forces found a cache of weapons and explosives in a raid on a suspected al Qaeda compound in a tiny farming village 47 miles north of Kandahar, Reuters news agency reported, quoting military officials. Five persons were taken into custody.
[U.S. special forces and British Royal Marines swooped down on Alatay village in southern Afghanistan in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday and detained 17 persons without firing a shot.
[All but five men, who were thought to have "intelligence value," were later released, coalition spokesman Col. Roger King said, adding: "It's too early to tell whether they are al Qaeda."
[Assault rifles, explosives, material to make booby traps, documents and a night-vision device were found during the raid in a mud-brick barn used for drying grapes, Col. King said. Inside, the forces found a pillow, a blanket and a lantern that was still burning, said 2nd Lt. David Spink of Britain. He was one of the first men in.
[Coalition forces found 25 tubes of plastic explosives. "Each one can destroy a car. Any one of these can be made into booby traps quite easily," Lt. Spink said.]
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul's New City quarter was reopened earlier this year after the collapse of the militant Taliban regime.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch published the report of a fact-finding mission to the still-troubled region of southern Afghanistan, warning that the credibility of the loya jirga was threatened by a resurgence of violence there. Local warlords were "stepping into a power vacuum" created by the absence of peacekeepers outside of Kabul, the group said.


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