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Afghans: Seven arrests in deaths of six NATO troops

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities announced Monday the arrests of seven people in last week's suicide car bombing that killed six NATO soldiers including four colonels — three American and one Canadian.

The blast was the first in a series of major Taliban attacks against NATO targets — the insurgents' apparent response to a planned NATO offensive in the south and peace overtures by the Afghan government.

Altogether, 18 people were killed in the blast Tuesday near the destroyed Afghan royal palace. The car bombing was followed a day later by a ground assault against the U.S.-run Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, and Saturday's attack on the giant Kandahar Air Field, the biggest NATO base in southern Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's intelligence service spokesman Saeed Ansari told reporters that the seven, who included one schoolteacher, were taken into custody separately over the last week.

Ansari said the seven were under the command of the Taliban's "shadow governor" of Kabul, Daoud Surkha, who the Afghans allege is hiding in Pakistan. He said the cell was responsible for at least seven other attacks in the capital since last year, including the February assault against guest houses frequented by foreigners in which six Indians were killed.

Previously, Ansari said the February attack was carried out by the Pakistan-based insurgent group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that claimed 166 lives.

"We are saying that they have been trained on the other side of the border, so it is clear that the intelligence service of our neighboring country has its role in the training and supporting of this terrorist group," he said in a clear reference to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, which maintained close ties to the Taliban years ago.

Fast facts

Balance shifts

For the first time since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, there are more U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan than in Iraq. The Pentagon says that as of Saturday, 94,000 U.S. forces were in Afghanistan and 92,000 in Iraq. The figure for Afghanistan will rise to roughly 98,000 this summer with the Obama administration's commitment of additional forces.

Afghans: Seven arrests in deaths of six NATO troops 05/24/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 11:14pm]
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