Kabul hints at Pakistani link to restaurant attack

 20 Jan 2014 - 8:32




An Afghan man lays flowers outside the Lebanese restaurant attacked by terrorists, during an anti-terrorism demonstration in Kabul yesterday.

KABUL: Afghanistan’s National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, yesterday accused “foreign intelligence services” of being behind the deadly attack on a Kabul restaurant, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.
Pakistan was the main supporter of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and Afghan officials have long voiced suspicions about connections between the hardline movement and Islamabad’s powerful intelligence services.
“The NSC said such sophisticated and complex attacks are not the work of the ordinary Taliban, and said without doubt foreign intelligence services beyond the border are behind such bloody attacks,” a statement from the palace said.
“Beyond the border” is a phrase commonly used by the Afghan government to refer to neighbouring Pakistan.
Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s suicide assault on a popular Lebanese restaurant in central Kabul in which 21 people, including 13 foreigners, were killed.
Among the dead were three Americans, two British citizens, two Canadians, the International Monetary Fund head of mission, and the Lebanese owner of the Taverna du Liban, which was a popular social venue for expats.
In the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, one attacker detonated his suicide vest at the fortified entrance to the restaurant before two other militants stormed inside and gunned down diners and staff.
Afghan officials yesterday vowed to investigate how the suicide attackers penetrated one of the most secure parts of Kabul.
Three police chiefs responsible for the Wazir Akbar Khan district have been suspended over the security breach.
“The police officers will be questioned to see how this attack happened,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said at a rally of about 100 protesters outside the targeted restaurant.
The demonstrators, holding signs reading “We denounce terrorism”, had gathered to protest against the Taliban insurgency that opposes the US-backed Kabul government. 
A series of checkpoints known as the “ring of steel” was established in 2009 after repeated attacks in central Kabul, but the militants evaded armed police tasked with searching people and vehicles.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the four UN staff killed in the attack, and pledged the UN would maintain its work in Afghanistan.
“This is totally unacceptable and this is a violation of international humanitarian law. All the perpetrators must be held accountable,” the secretary general said.