Pakistan denies NYT report on ISI link to Kabul blast (Second Lead)

August 1st, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Islamabad/Washington, Aug 1 (IANS) US officials have told an American daily that they have clear evidence about the role of Pakistan’s spy service ISI in the July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul. Pakistan quickly went on a damage-control mode and repudiated the news report, published in the Aug 1 edition of the New York Times, as “baseless.”

“The report is not factual and utterly misleading and it holds no credence,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told DPA news agency on the phone from Sri Lanka where he is accompanying the country’s delegation to a summit of South Asian leaders.

Sadiq said the ISI was being maligned by a certain section of the press, though there was no corroborative evidence for the hearsay. It was a “load of rubbish,” he added.

The report and Pakistan’s denial came a day ahead of a likely meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani in Colombo on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

The issue of the alleged complicity of the ISI in the Kabul attack has cast a shadow on ties between India and Pakistan and will figure prominently in discussions between Manmohan Singh and Gilani.

India has not reacted to the NYT report, but days after the July 7 Kabul bombing, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had blamed the ISI for the attack. Islamabad has, predictably, denied any role in the Kabul attack.

Foreign Secretary Shivhshankar Menon had taken up the issue with his Pakistani counterpart when they met in New Delhi July 21 to launch the fifth round of composite dialogue between the two countries.

American intelligence agencies have concluded that the ISI helped plan the July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, says a report in The New York Times headlined: “Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, US officials Say.”

The conclusion is based on intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack, the report quotes unnamed US officials as saying.

The report, based on remarks of US officials privy to US intelligence gathering, confirm India’s charge that the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) masterminded the ghastly attack on the Indian mission in Kabul that killed four Indians, including two diplomats, in the first terror attack on an Indian mission abroad.

“American officials said that the communications were intercepted before the July 7 bombing, and that the C.I.A. emissary, Stephen R. Kappes, the agency’s deputy director, had been ordered to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, even before the attack,” the report published in the Aug 1 edition of the NYT said.

“The intercepts were not detailed enough to warn of any specific attack,” it said. “The government officials were guarded in describing the new evidence and would not say specifically what kind of assistance the ISI officers provided to the militants.”

What is alarming from India’s point of view is the view of US officials that “the ISI officers had not been renegades, indicating that their actions might have been authorized by superiors.”

“It confirmed some suspicions that I think were widely held,” one State Department official with knowledge of Afghanistan issues said of the intercepted communications, the report said. “It was sort of this ‘aha’ moment. There was a sense that there was finally direct proof.”

“The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” the NYT report said.

US President George Bush expressed “concern and some annoyance” about the ISI’s role in aiding the Taliban militia when he met Gilani in Washington Monday. Bush also told Gilani that “certain elements” in ISI are passing on details to Al-Qaeda linked militants much before they could be attacked by US or Pakistani forces.

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