- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan Suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters planned to kill international peacekeepers by setting off car bombs in Afghanistan's capital, authorities said yesterday.
Six cars were rigged with booby traps to be detonated near peacekeeper security patrols, according to Flight Lt. Tony Marshall, a spokesman for the security force.
The vehicles were placed under surveillance but no arrests have been made, he said.
The international security force chose to make the plot public after a French captain revealed details of it to French journalists, officials said.
"We were aware of these vehicles … where these vehicles were being kept and what the intentions were of these groups," Lt. Marshall said.
Peacekeepers would have acted, he added, "if there had been any move to actually use these vehicles in any way, in the matter that I've just described."
About 40 miles east of the area in eastern Afghanistan where the Operation Anaconda battle was fought, tensions also persisted with two groups of U.S. allies locked in a confrontation.
Afghan officials are asking U.S. Special Forces to hand over two men who, they say, sought refuge at an American base after ambushing the car of the regional security chief. So far there has been no hand-over.
One bodyguard and two other persons were killed in the incident, which threatens to drive a wedge between Afghan groups allied with the United States.
In Kabul, Western and Afghan authorities have been concerned for some time over the possibility that al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts would try to infiltrate the city and stage attacks against the 4,500-member peacekeeping force.
Concern over peacekeeper safety is running high in countries such as Britain and Germany, which provide the bulk of the 18-nation force. The International Security Assistance Force operates only in Kabul and is separate from the U.S.-led force fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban elsewhere in Afghanistan.
Lt. Marshall said intelligence information also indicated that peacekeepers and other foreigners may be kidnapped by extremists "to either promote their particular cause or achieve some end goal," such as the release of prisoners held by the United States and anti-Taliban Afghan forces.
"Whether they're in or outside of the capital, whether they're al Qaeda or Taliban, that is something perhaps that is not clear," Lt. Marshall said. "However, the threat is credible."
The peacekeeping force has already advised journalists and Western aid workers they are at risk of being kidnapped in Kabul and elsewhere. The warning was issued during the recently concluded Operation Anaconda, which targeted al Qaeda and Taliban units in eastern Afghanistan.
Lt. Marshall called both warnings credible and significant.
The presence of the peacekeeping force in the capital has not been enthusiastically welcomed by all members of interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's administration.
The defense minister, Gen. Mohammed Fahim, has long resisted any expansion of the force outside of Kabul and would like the peacekeepers to leave as soon as possible.
However, other officials of the new government, including Mr. Karzai, have praised the peacekeeping force and its efforts to enforce security.

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