Suicide bomber shot dead near Kabul jirga site

A SUSPECTED suicide bomber carrying a bag of explosives was shot dead in Afghanistan last night near the site of a major elders’ meeting set to discuss relations with the US, officials said.

The man was gunned down in Kabul hours after the Taliban claimed to have published a top-secret security plan for the loya jirga, which starts tomorrow and will bring together over 2000 elders from around the country.

Afghan officials and the NATO-led foreign military in Afghanistan said the document was fake, but the leak and the killing highlight tight security around the jirga as the Taliban threatens to target those taking part.

Security forces shot the would-be bomber as he carried explosives, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

“No one was killed but the bomber,” he added.

Lutfullah Mashal, spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence service the National Directorate of Security, said the man’s bag blew up as he was shot.

“A suicide bomber who wanted to enter the polytechnic university (where the loya jirga will take place) was identified and shot dead by security forces.

“His explosives detonated as he was shot dead . . . He was carrying the explosives in a laptop-type bag,” Mr Mashal said.

The loya jirga will discuss the US-Afghanistan strategic partnership, which is still under negotiation but will govern the two countries’ relations after 2014, when all foreign combat troops are due to leave.

It will also cover the Afghan government’s efforts to make peace with the Taliban, which were dealt a heavy blow by the assassination in September of President Hamid Karzai’s peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Late on Sunday, the Taliban published on its website an alleged security plan claiming to show a satellite map of the venue where the event will take place, mobile phone numbers of top security officials and details of security force deployments.

“The vigilant mujahideen of the Islamic emirate (the Taliban) have acquired the security plans, maps and other documents related to the upcoming supposed loya jirga,” the militant group said in a statement sent to media.

The Taliban said the documents were seized “by means of its personnel embedded inside the enemy ranks”.

The militant Islamists, leaders of a 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan, have already threatened to target the meeting and struck at Afghanistan’s last loya jirga in 2010.

But Afghan government officials and the international military dismissed the Taliban’s claims as fake.

“We strongly dismiss this and there is no truth in it,” Abdul Rahman Rahman, the deputy interior minister responsible for security and police matters, told a press conference in Kabul.

“If this document were real, they would have used it to attack the loya jirga and later leak it out. If it’s real, why would you publish it?”

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Commodore William Truelove, called the document a “fabricated piece of propaganda” and said it was “an attempt to disrupt this peaceful jirga”.

Separately, Mr Sediqqi told journalists that a man believed to be one of the Taliban’s main media spokesmen, Zabiullah Mujahid, had been captured in southeast Afghanistan yesterday.

However, ISAF spokesman Sergeant Christopher DeWitt cited the deputy governor of Paktika province as saying that while the individual captured had the same surname as the spokesman, it was not the same person.

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