UK says report of Afghan plot to kill envoys is credible

LONDON Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:25pm EDT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives with British Ambassador Sir William Patey (L) before meeting with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kabul June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/POOL

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives with British Ambassador Sir William Patey (L) before meeting with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kabul June 10, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Rousseau/POOL

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan said on Friday there was "some credibility" to reports that an Afghan governor plotted to kill the U.S., French and British envoys to Kabul in 2009, but that there was not enough evidence for a trial.

U.S. investigators allege former governor Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr ordered a 2009 suicide bombing that killed two U.S. soldiers, and that he plotted to kill the U.S., French and British ambassadors in November 2009, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

The investigators also accuse him of involvement in acts of extortion and corruption, according to a summary of the investigation shown to the newspaper. U.S. officials are pressing the Afghan government to prosecute him.

Abu Bakr denies the allegations and does not wish to speak to the media, the Wall Street Journal quoted his son-in-law Mohammed Iqbal Safi, a member of the Afghan parliament, as saying.

President Hamid Karzai has rejected requests for a trial because of the lack of evidence, the newspaper said, a stance echoed by outgoing British Ambassador William Patey.

"I think there is some credibility to the story ... I don't think there was ever sufficient evidence to initiate a prosecution against the governor, but I know that governor was subsequently removed by President Karzai," Patey told reporters in London by video link from the Afghan capital.

A series of killings by Afghan forces of foreign troops, the alleged massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base and other recent incidents have strained ties between Washington and Kabul.

Three foreign soldiers, two of them Britons, were shot dead by Afghan security forces personnel on Monday in the latest round of so-called insider killings which have raised deep concerns about the reliability of NATO's local allies.

On Friday, police said an Afghan policeman drugged nine colleagues and shot them dead as they slept.

Patey labeled the insider killings "isolated incidents".

"I think there is a tendency in a country where there has been so much violence for so long, that disputes, individual issues, tend to end in violence in a way that wouldn't be true of other countries," he said.

"I'm not sure you can discern a pattern," he said.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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