Afghanistan hints at Pakistan link to attack on presidential candidate Abdullah

KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan on Sunday accused "foreign intelligence services" of being behind an attack targeting presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah that killed 12 people, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

Mr Abdullah survived the assassination attempt on Friday when two blasts, including a suicide bombing, hit his campaign motorcade in Kabul ahead of next weekend's hotly contested run-off election.

"Initial investigations indicate foreign intelligence services were involved in this incident through Lashkar-e-Taiba in an organised manner, and the terrorists were aiming to disrupt the election in Afghanistan," Afghanistan's National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, said in a statement. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a Pakistan-based militant group.

Pakistan was the main supporter of the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan, and Afghan officials have long voiced suspicions about connections between the hardline movement and Islamabad's powerful intelligence services.

Sunday's accusation comes after Afghanistan said last week that it was pulling out of security talks in Islamabad in anger at cross-border attacks blamed on the Pakistani army, which it said were designed to disrupt the second round of its presidential election.

The NSC "condemned" increasing numbers of "rocket attacks (by the) Pakistani military against the country", which it said were aimed at disrupting the run-off ballot due to be held on June 14.

The attempt to assassinate Abdullah triggered strong international condemnation, including from the United States and the UN Security Council.

Afghanistan is in the middle of elections to choose a successor to Mr Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the 1996-2001 Taleban regime.

Mr Abdullah fell short of the 50 per cent threshold needed for an outright victory in the April first round and will face former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in the run-off. The NSC statement said Friday's attack on Mr Abdullah was "the worst incident during election campaign".

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