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LeT expands attacks in Afghanistan: NYT

world Updated: Jun 16, 2010 19:41 IST

IANS
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Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, has expanded its operations in Afghanistan, inflicting casualties on Afghans and Indians alike and setting up training camps in that country, according to the New York Times.

The group identified with attacks on Indian targets "is believed to have planned or executed three major attacks against Indian government employees and private workers in Afghanistan in recent months," the influential US daily said in a report from Kabul citing Afghan and international intelligence officers and diplomats.

LeT continues to track Indian development workers and others for possible attack, the Times quoted them as saying.

Lashkar's "inroads in Afghanistan provide a fresh indication of its growing ambitions to confront India even beyond the disputed territory of Kashmir, for which Pakistan's military and intelligence services created the group as a proxy force decades ago," the Times said

"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," it said.

The Times cited some intelligence officials as suggesting it is also possible that LeT factions have broken from their onetime handlers and are working more independently, though Indian and Afghan authorities say the focus on Indian targets is being interpreted as a direct challenge from Pakistan.

"Our concern is that there are still players involved that are trying to use Afghanistan's ground as a place for a proxy war," Shaida Abdali, Afghanistan's deputy national security adviser was quoted as saying. "It is being carried out by certain state actors to fight their opponents."

There were a few Lashkar cells in Afghanistan three or four years ago, but they were not focused on Indian targets and, until recently, their presence seemed to be diminishing, the Times said. But "They are active now in six or eight provinces" it said citing an unnamed senior NATO intelligence official.

"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.

In that lawless expanse on the Afghan border, Lashkar could help other militant groups plan complex attacks against Afghan and international targets, possibly in exchange for reconnaissance on Indian targets from its militant allies who have operatives in Afghanistan, the Times said citing security officials.