UPDATE 2-Afghanistan says foreign agents behind embassy bomb

Tue Jul 8, 2008 6:02pm IST

(Adds quotes, background)

By Jon Hemming

KABUL, July 8 (Reuters) - A suicide bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in the Afghan capital bore all the hallmarks of a foreign intelligence agency, Afghanistan's presidential spokesman said on Tuesday in a likely reference to Pakistan.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistani agents of being behind the April assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai, a mass jail break in Kandahar last month and a string of other attacks.

Karzai threatened last month to send troops across the border to attack militants there if Pakistan did not take action.

"Everything has the hallmark of a particular intelligence agency that has conducted similar terrorist acts inside Afghanistan in the past," Humayun Hamidzada told a news conference a day after the embassy attack that killed 41 people.

A suicide car bomb rammed into the gates of the Indian embassy in Kabul on Monday, killing two Indian diplomats and two Indian guards.

Most of the other victims were people waiting in line for visas and shoppers at a nearby market.

It was the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

"We believe firmly that there is a particular intelligence agency behind it," said Hamidzada. "I'm not going to name it anymore, I think it's pretty obvious."

Afghan analysts say Pakistan is unsettled by the close relations between its main rival India and Afghanistan, a country it sees as being in its own sphere of influence.

Pakistani agents, they argue, are aiding Taliban insurgents so that Pakistan is able to achieve strategic depth and allow its forces to concentrate on defending the border with India.

CIVILIANS THE MAIN VICTIMS

Pakistan rejects the Afghan accusations and strongly condemned Monday's attack.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani denied his country had any role in the Indian Embassy attack and said Islamabad's interests were in a stable Afghanistan.

There is no firm evidence of official Pakistani backing for the Taliban, Western analysts say.

But they add that without the sanctuaries insurgents enjoy inside Pakistan's lawless tribal border regions, they would have much less ability to operate and mount attacks inside Afghanistan.

NATO warned last month there could be no security in Afghanistan while the Taliban had sanctuaries in Pakistan.

The Taliban denied responsibility for Monday's attack, as they have in the past whenever a large number of civilians have been killed.

"It was interesting to know that the Taliban denied responsibility," Hamidzada said.

"But the suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul and the other provinces are conducted by the same people, that is the Taliban movement and their foreign instructors who pave the way for them."

While some 80 percent of suicide attacks are aimed at international and Afghan security forces, more than 80 percent of the victims are Afghan civilians, security experts say. (Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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