KABUL (Reuters) - Many senior generals from Afghanistan’s armed forces have been suspended from duty and are being questioned over last month’s botched attack on President Hamid Karzai, an official said on Monday.
Karzai survived the assassination attempt at a military parade near the presidential palace on April 27 when Taliban insurgents used small arms fire and rockets.
But three people, including one parliamentarian, were shot dead before three of the assailants were killed.
The government had arrested a defence ministry officer and an interior ministry doctor for helping the Taliban to carry out the raid on the same day it happened, but said more officials might have been involved in facilitating it.
Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit, tasked to take over the investigation from a previous commission, on Monday suspended eight officials from the ministries of defence and interior, and the intelligence department, an official said.
The eight included several generals - Kabul’s police chief, Salem Ehsas, Abdul Khaliq who is head of defence ministry’s intelligence and detection, Abdul Manan Farahi, chief for counter-terrorism of the interior ministry, and Nazar Shah who heads the intelligence department for Kabul.
“Sabit gave the order for the suspensions of the eight people so they can be investigated because they had the responsibility for security at the parade,” Hayatullah Hayat, an official in the attorney general’s office, told Reuters.
Asked if the eight were suspended as suspects, Hayat said:
“Investigations would show.”
The attack that sent Karzai, his cabinet and military top brass as well as foreign diplomats diving for cover, was sponsored by al Qaeda, according to Afghanistan’s spy chief, Amrullah Saleh.
It was the fourth assassination attempt against Karzai who has been leading Afghanistan since Taliban’s removal from power in 2001.
While the Taliban have carried out sporadic suicide bombings in Kabul before, April’s attack, together with a guerrilla-style assault on a five-star hotel near the palace in January, indicate a more sophisticated mode of strike, amid fear of infiltration of militants in government’s security ranks.
The Taliban have vowed to target Kabul this year in a bid to overthrow Karzai’s government and drive out the more than 55,000 foreign troops stationed in the country.
Editing by Richard Balmforth