Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan points to Afghanistan over London terror plot

THROWING STONES Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of making claims about it as a diversionary tactic, and blames Karachi for the foiled bombing

AP , ISLAMABAD

Pakistan's government said a senior al-Qaeda leader based in Afghanistan masterminded the recently foiled London terror plot to blow up several trans-Atlantic jetliners.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam refused to give the nationality or identity of the alleged mastermind, and said on Saturday the disclosure was not meant to shift responsibility onto Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is also suffering because of al-Qaeda terrorism," Aslam told reporters.

"But what we have stated, we stand by it: We have evidence that suggests that the plot was hatched by Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda," she said.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of making the claim as a "diversionary" tactic. It blames Pakistan, where at least seven suspects in the aircraft plot have been arrested, of not doing enough to crack down on terrorists operating on its soil.

Aslam's comments follow accounts from Pakistani intelligence officials that an al-Qaeda leader based in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar Province masterminded the plans to blow up US-bound jetliners.

The officials allege the mastermind was in touch with Rashid Rauf, a Briton arrested in Pakistan and identified by the government as a "key person" in the plot.

Rauf recruited the would-be bombers to take part in a large-scale attack to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes in the US, the officials claim.

"Somebody pretty high up in the al-Qaeda organization was behind" the plot, Aslam said, without elaborating.

She said Islamabad was sharing its investigations with Britain and the US.

Aslam said both Afghanistan and Pakistan were suffering from the legacy of the anti-Soviet jihad fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s with US support. She said foreign Islamic militants had failed to return to their home countries afterward.

Pakistan, a former backer of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, became a key US ally in its war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks. But its relations with the US-backed, post-Taliban government in Afghanistan remain awkward.

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants who stage attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistan denies the charge.

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