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Lashkar spreading across Afghanistan

world Updated: Jun 16, 2010 23:50 IST

Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba has expanded its operations in Afghanistan, setting up training camps and inflicting casualties on Afghans and Indians alike.

Lashkar is believed to have planned or executed three major attacks against Indian government employees and private workers in Afghanistan in recent months, according to Afghan and international intelligence officers and diplomats here. It continues to track Indian development workers and others for possible attack, they said.

“They are active now in six or eight provinces” in Afghanistan, said a senior NATO intelligence official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly on the subject. “They are currently most interested in Indian targets here, but they can readily trade attacks on international targets for money or influence or an alliance with other groups,” he said.

Lashkar’s capabilities, terrorism experts say, have grown in recent years, since the group relocated many of its operations to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it trades intelligence, training and expertise with other militant groups, including Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the insurgent network run by Siraj Haqqani, also a longtime asset of Pakistan.

“A lot of hard-liners have broken away from LeT and gone to North and South Waziristan,” said a Pakistani intelligence official, using an acronym for Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

“There are a number of splinter groups that are much more radical. The problem is not LeT per se, it’s the elements of LeT that have broken away and found their place in Waziristan.”

Its inroads in Afghanistan provide a fresh indication of its growing ambitions to confront India even beyond Kashmir, for which Pakistan’s military and intelligence services created the group as a proxy force decades ago.

Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But Lashkar’s expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan’s proxies to counteract India’s influence in the country.

A number of experts now say Lashkar presents more of a threat in Afghanistan than even Al Qaeda does.