Afghan Soldiers Arrested in Suspected Attack Against Government
The Afghan Defense Ministry went into a near-total lockdown on Tuesday after the discovery of 10 suicide vests and the arrest of more than a dozen Afghan soldiers suspected of plotting to attack the ministry and blow up commuter buses for government employees, Afghan and Western officials said.
The security breach took place in one of the most fortified parts of Kabul, less than a mile from the presidential palace and the headquarters of the American-led coalition. It raised the prospect that the Taliban, which committed a series of high-profile attacks inside Kabul last year, planned to pick up where it left off as winter snows gave way to spring, clearing the high mountain passes and opening the annual fighting season.
Compounding the fears of renewed violence in Kabul was the apparent complicity of Afghan soldiers in the plot. Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killing their colleagues among the international military force here at an alarming rate in recent months — only hidden bombs, the so-called improvised explosive devices, have killed more coalition service members this year.
The latest killings by Afghan security forces came on Monday when three coalition service members were killed in two separate attacks.
Now, it seems, the Afghan security forces may represent a growing threat to their own government.
Details of the latest plot, which officials said was uncovered on Monday, remained sketchy. The Defense Ministry denied any attempted bombings had taken place and said no soldiers had been arrested. The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, did not offer any immediate comment.
But a Western official said at least 10 suicide vests were discovered in and around the ministry late on Monday afternoon. Most were found in guard sheds around a parking lot, and the belief among Afghan and Western officials is that the plan was to blow up buses carrying ministry employees home, the official said, asking not to be identified so as not to be seen contradicting official statements from the Afghan government.
An Afghan Army officer who handles administrative matters at the ministry also said there were 10 bombers, and that they are believed to have been plotting to blow up buses.
“You have to be cautious when you come here. It is not safe here,” said the officer, who similarly did not want to be identified. The plotters “have links inside the ministry. Otherwise, they could not enter such a highly secured place.”