Washington: Fingers of blame for
Afghanistan`s first major sectarian assault since the fall of
Taliban regime 10 years ago are pointing to radical terror
groups in Pakistan, raising fears among US officials that more
such groups may now be operating in the strife-torn country.
The attacks among the wars deadliest struck across the
country, hitting targets in capital Kabul, Kandahar and
Mazar-i-Sharif almost simultaneously, killing at least 63
Shiite mourners on Ashura.
Targetted sectarian strikes are alien to Afghanistan, New
York Times reported, saying that it was no surprise that
responsibility was claimed by Pakistan-based
The group, NYT said, had not previously claimed or
carried out attacks in Afghanistan, but its sudden emergence
across the border, has fuelled suspicions that al Qaeda, the
Taliban and Pakistan`s spy agency ISI may have teamed up with
the group to send the message that Afghanistan`s future
stability remained deeply tenuous and indeed dependent in the
cooperation of outside forces.
The actual intentions of those behind yesterday`s attacks
remained murky because of the group`s tangled history, which
once operated openly in Pakistan with the support of its spy
service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or
ISI, but has since been outlawed.
In recent years it has struck up alliances with al Qaeda
and the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of Pakistani
militants that has attacked Pakistan`s cities and security
forces numerous times.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is inspired by a fundamentalist
Deobandi philosophy that justifies killing Shiites because of
their beliefs, and it has on several occasions attacked
Americans, Christians and other Muslim minorities as well.
There is no record of previous operations by the group in
Afghanistan, however, so no one seriously thought
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could carry out a coordinated series of
bombings in three Afghan cities without substantial support
from other sources.
"Never in our history have there been such cruel attacks
on religious observances," said President Hamid Karzai, in a
statement released by his office.
"The enemies of Afghanistan do not want us to live under
one roof with peace and harmony," he said.
The timing of the attacks was especially pointed, coming
a day after an international conference on Afghanistan in
Bonn, Germany, that had been viewed as an opportunity for
Afghanistan to cement long-term support from the West.
But the conference fell considerably short of the
objectives that officials had envisioned because Taliban
insurgents and Pakistani diplomats did not attend.
Pakistan pulled out of the conference as a protest over
the deaths of 24 of its soldiers in an American airstrike,
carried out from Afghan territory, which American officials
have depicted as the result of a misunderstanding.
Critics of Pakistan were quick to read Monday`s boycott
and yesterday’s bombings as a signal from the Pakistanis,
delivered by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that Afghanistan could not
Prominent Hazara leaders, including MP Abdul Sajadi, said
that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi could not have carried out the attack
without the backing of Taliban, mainly the Haqqani network.
US officials, media report said, were concerned over new
Pakistani terror groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi expanding their
operations in Afghanistan. They said besides the Punjab-based
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Toiba has also set up training
camps in the volatile North Waziristan region in Pakistan.
Kabul`s police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, was
aware of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim, which was reported by
the BBC and Radio Free Europe quoting the group’s spokesman,
Qari Abubakar. But he said none of the Pakistan-based
extremists could carry out operations without Taliban support.
"All the militant groups have very good cooperation with
the Taliban in Afghanistan, so I am sure they were aware of
it," he said.