KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan officials said Wednesday that they had broken up an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist cell at Kabul University that was planning to assassinate President Hamid Karzai and carry out attacks in the United States.
The cell’s six members had met with operatives from al-Qaida and the al-Qaida-allied Haqqani network in Waziristan in Pakistan, where they also had received some training, Latifullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate, told a news conference in Kabul.
The group recently had received $150,000 from “foreign organizations outside Afghanistan” to carry out its attacks, including plots against targets in New York and Washington, Mashal said. Investigators are trying to determine the origin of the money.
“This is not a small Taliban group,” he said. “It is a transnational, al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group that was planning to hit some targets in New York and Washington,” in addition to the plot against Karzai. Mashal provided no specifics about the alleged plots on targets in the United States.
The group’s members were said to comprise a member of Karzai’s presidential guard, a medical professor at the university and four students.
The discovery of a terrorist cell in Afghanistan isn’t a rare occurrence. Afghan and U.S.-led international forces have made many terrorist arrests over the years. But the discovery of a cell at the university was especially alarming, Mashal said.
The announcement of the cell and the assertion that it was tied to the Haqqani network also were likely to add to the tensions that now characterize Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaida and the Taliban.