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Haqqani group seen as behind Kabul attacks

  |   Sept. 15, 2011 at 8:02 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The violent Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, is being blamed for this week's attacks on the U.S. Embassy and NATO in Kabul, U.S. officials say.

The siege left 16 people dead, including five Afghan officers and 11 civilians, including at least 6 children, The New York Times reported.

The attack began Tuesday with a half-dozen well-armed insurgents staging daring attacks in the fortified Afghan capital, targeting the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters. It ended Wednesday with Afghan and coalition forces killing all of the attackers.

There were no casualties at the U.S. Embassy.

Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the U.S. and NATO forces, was among those who blamed al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network for the attacks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said based on available information: "These attackers, like those who carried out the bombing in Wardak, are part of the Haqqani network. They enjoy safe haven in Northern Waziristan [in Pakistan]."

The attack in Wardak province involved a truck bombing against a coalition base earlier this week in which 77 U.S. troops were injured. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

The Times reported the Haqqani group has been a longtime asset of Pakistan's military and intelligence services and Pakistani military leaders have refused to go after it despite U.S. pressure.

As a result, U.S. drone strikes are currently centered mostly in North Waziristan.

"The Haqqanis have been attacking Kabul for a long time because Kabul for so much of this country represents not just the spiritual heartland of this country; it represents the future," Allen said at a briefing.

U.S. and NATO countries are set to withdraw most of their troops by the end of 2014 but such attacks in the capital only raise concerns about whether Afghan security forces would be able to check such high-profile violence.

However, in a statement after the end of the Kabul siege, carried by the U.S. Embassy on its Web site, Crocker praised the "enormous courage and dedication on the part of ISAF troops and especially the Afghan National Security Forces."

Crocker said the latest attacks serve to highlight the weakness at the core of the insurgency.

The Times reported those injured in the attacks included six coalition soldiers, three of them by rocket-propelled grenades that landed in a military installation near NATO headquarters.

The dead insurgents appeared to be in their 20s and were well-equipped.

The Afghan Interior Ministry, which found burqas at the scene, said the insurgents might have tried to conceal themselves by dressing as women.

In San Francisco, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the attacks indicated the Taliban are losing their ability to attack coalition forces on a broad scale, said a report on the DOD Web site.

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