Hundreds held after failed coup in Kabul

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 06:10:56 +0100

More than 600 people have been arrested in Kabul after an alleged plot
by fundamentalists to overthrow the interim government of Hamid Karzai. 

Most of the suspects belonged to the Hezb-i-Islami group of Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar, who was briefly a prime minister during the years of civil
war, and is virulently opposed to the Karzai government. 

Officials claimed that the fundamentalists were also linked to the
remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida movement and had planned bomb
attacks and selective assassinations in Kabul. They were accused of
plotting to sabotage the loya jirga, or consultative council, which is
due to be held under the guidance of the former king, Zahir Shah, to
determine the permanent government of post-TalibanAfghanistan. 

Mohammed Naseer, the security director at the office of the Kabul
governor, said: "They wanted to launch a coup d'état against the
government. These people are linked to both Hekmatyar and al-Qa'ida." 

This was the latest and the most serious crisis to hit the government of
Mr Karzai, and is seen as highlighting the instability and dangers of a
country where Britain now has about 2,000 troops based.The numbers will
rise to more than 6,000 with the full deployment of the expeditionary
force led by the Royal Marines. 

About 250 of the detainees had been released by last night. Among those
still being held were eight Pakistanis who were said to have collected
an arsenal including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and based
themselves near the recently opened Kabul airport. They are said to
belong to the main Pakistani backers of Mr Hekmatyar, the

Government forces also raided the home of Wahidullah Sabaoon, a
Hekmatyar lieutenant. Afghan officers said Mr Sabaoon was in custody,
but sources in the British-led International Security Assistance Force
(Isaf) said he had fled. 

Afghan officials said foreign diplomats and aid workers might have been
intended targets of the suspects. 

There were unconfirmedreports that some of thosearrested were followers
of another fundamentalist warlord, Abdul Sayyaf, who is nominally a
member of the ruling Northern Alliance. Mr Sayyaf controls districts in
Kabul, and his forces have been blamed for a string of murders and
robberies. He has been questioned on several occasions by the Isaf over
the violent behaviour of his men. 

Officially the security operation was the work exclusively of interim
government forces, with the Isaf being informed on a "need to know
basis". However, according to Western sources, Isaf and British military
intelligence gave information to the Afghans. 

Mr Hekmatyar was the CIA's blue-eyed boy in the war against the Russians
and received millions of dollars in subsidies and arms from America and
its allies through the Pakistani secret service. 

During the years of civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, Mr
Hekmatyar briefly became prime minister. His followers and those of Mr
Sayyaf are blamed for some of the worst atrocities committed at the
time. After the Taliban took Kabul, Mr Hekmatyar fled to Tehran, but is
now said to have disappeared. 

Mr Hekmatyar had denounced the Karzai government as a Western puppet,
but his deputy, Jumma Khan Hamdard, declared last month that
Hezb-i-Islami would be prepared to take part in the loya jirga.
Yesterday, another Hezb-e-Islami leader, Qutbuddin Hilal, said those
arrested were former members of the group. 

Almost all those arrested were Pashtuns, and some Pashtun activists
accused the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance government of trying to
destabilise the organising of a joint Pashtun front for the loya jirga. 

Although Mr Karzai is himself a Pashtun, most of his key ministries are
controlled by Tajik supporters of the assassinated Northern Alliance
leader, Ahmed Shah Masood. 

In the meantime, the build-up of British forces continued at Bagram air
base, 32 miles north-east of Kabul. 

Major Tony de Reya, an officer in military intelligence, said Taliban
and al-Qa'ida forces were maintaining a "tactical pause" while waiting
for the British offensive to begin. 

"There are large groupings of them in certain areas of our operations.
Al-Qa'ida still sit hand in hand with the Taliban," he said. 

Source:  Independent

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