Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pakistani intelligence 'tipped off' insurgents

WASHINGTON: The director of the CIA has confronted Pakistani intelligence officials with what the US believes is evidence of collusion between Pakistani security officials and militants staging attacks in Afghanistan, a US counterterrorism official says.

During an unannounced trip to Islamabad, Leon Panetta met the leader of the Pakistani intelligence service, Ahmed Shuja Pasha. He showed him satellite photographs and other evidence of what the CIA believes to be two bomb-making facilities used by militants based in Pakistan against US forces in Afghanistan, the official said.

The bomb facilities were in the north-western region of Waziristan, a haven for militants.

The meeting on Friday came a day before two bomb blasts ripped through a crowded supermarket-hotel complex in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, killing 39 people and injuring more than 80. The attack was one of the deadliest since Americans killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.

Mr Panetta felt compelled to confront Lieutenant-General Pasha after the CIA alerted the Pakistanis about the bomb-making facilities several weeks ago and asked them to raid the locations. But when the Pakistani army showed up, the militants were gone, making the CIA suspicious that the militants had been warned by someone on the Pakistani side.

''The targets seem to have been tipped off,'' the official said. ''There are indications that some senior Pakistani officials aren't happy about it, and neither are we, of course.''

Officials said that video of the two installations indicated both were being used to manufacture improvised explosive devices, or IEDs - the roadside bombs that are the principal killers of US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

One was in a girls' school in Miram Shah, home to the Haqqani network's North Waziristan headquarters. The other, in South Waziristan, was thought to be an al-Qaeda-run facility.

A senior Pakistani official said at first there was no reason for Pakistan to be suspicious that the bomb makers had disappeared.

''Extremist groups often move locations,'' the official said. ''Now that the US side has drawn our attention to the possibility of the Taliban being tipped off between the day the intelligence was shared and the day of our military action, we will work on finding out what happened.''

Tensions between the US and Pakistan have worsened since the US military raid that killed bin Laden. US officials say they have uncovered no evidence that anyone in the Pakistan leadership knew about bin Laden's hiding place, although the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said recently that he thought ''somebody'' in Pakistan knew.

US intelligence and military officials have long said that elements of Pakistan's intelligence service have close links to Pakistani insurgents and the Pakistani Taliban. They say Pakistan supports the insurgents as a proxy force in Afghanistan, preparing for influence after American soldiers leave.

Mr Panetta, who is due to replace Mr Gates as defence secretary on July 1, said during his confirmation hearing last week that Pakistan, an important US ally, remained a serious problem.

He told the Senate armed services committee that the relationship with Pakistan was ''one of the most critical, and yet one of the most complicated and frustrating relationships that we have''.

Mr Panetta said Pakistan's nuclear weapons remained a concern because of the danger they ''could wind up in the wrong hands''.

The New York Times, Agence France-Presse,The Washington Post

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1 comment:

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