Plot to kill Afghan Interior Minister foiled: officials

KABUL Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:55am EDT

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's spy agency said on Tuesday it had foiled a plot by three policemen to kill the interior minister during a planned visit to a police academy in the east of the country.

The policemen and five insurgents were detained last week ahead of a visit by Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi to the academy in eastern Paktia province, said Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for the National Directorate of Security.

The arrests come as a spate of shootings by "rogue" Afghan police officers or soldiers raises fears that more insurgents will be able to infiltrate the security forces, which are rapidly recruiting ahead of taking full responsibility for the country's security from foreign forces at the end of 2014.

"The enemies managed to infiltrate inside the police force in Paktia and planned to assassinate the interior minister," Mashal told a news conference in Kabul. "Suicide vests, explosives and weapons were prepared for the mission."

The three policemen were stationed at Paktia's police headquarters and were in contact with Qari Omar, a member of the Haqqani network, which is considered one of the most dangerous militant groups fighting in Afghanistan.

Mashal said the men also provided intelligence to the Taliban about planned operations by security forces.

One of the men was in charge of ammunition for police in Paktia and provided hundreds of heavy machine gun rounds to the Taliban, he added.

The use of rogue police and troops, or insurgents in uniforms, has been growing. In May, a suicide bomber killed General Dawood Dawood, the police chief of northern Afghanistan and a former deputy interior minister.

The police chief of Kandahar province, Khan Mohammad Khan, was killed by another attacker wearing police uniform in mid-April. An insurgent in army uniform also struck inside the defense ministry headquarters in Kabul a few days later, killing two, although neither was a senior leader.

The assaults by uniformed insurgents highlight the pressure U.S. and NATO troops face as they prepare Afghan security forces for a critical security handover, which begins this year and is due to be completed by 2014.

Foreign troops have begun to train counter-intelligence agents to help root out Taliban infiltrators in the Afghan army and police, General William Caldwell, head of the U.S. and NATO training mission in Afghanistan, said earlier this year.

(Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathon Burch and Yoko Nishikawa)

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