The foiled plot resulted in half a dozen arrests, including one of Karzai’s bodyguards, said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security.
Mashal said the assassination ring included several university students and professors. One of the masterminds was an Arab national who had traveled to neighboring Pakistan, he said.
In addition to the plan to kill Karzai, the group planned attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and potentially in the United States and Europe, the spokesman said.
Mashal said the suspects had confessed. He described them as being affiliated with Al Qaeda -- one of a number of insurgent groups battling Western forces and the Afghan government.
Relations between Pakistan and Karzai’s government have been extremely tense after last month’s assassination of the Afghan government’s chief peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghan intelligence officials have said the killer was a Pakistani national and have accused Pakistan of impeding the investigation.
Karzai stopped short of accusing the Islamabad government of being behind Rabbani’s assassination, but said Pakistan has failed to act decisively against insurgent groups that use its soil as a base of operations.
Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, has also come under suspicion of involvement in last month’s attack on the U.S. Embassy, carried out by fighters from the Haqqani network, another insurgent group. In a 20-hour siege, a team of gunmen and suicide bombers fired on the heavily fortified embassy compound. More than a dozen Afghans were killed in the strike, but there were no American fatalities.
Pakistan’s government has denied involvement in the embassy attack.
-- Laura King
Photo: Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivers a lecture in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday. Credit: Gurinder Osan / Associated Press