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Security forces kill suicide bomber near meeting site

By Nick Paton Walsh, Masoud Popalzai and Ruhullah Khapalwak, CNN
November 14, 2011 -- Updated 1508 GMT (2308 HKT)
The conclusions of a meeting of tribal elders in Kabul next week will likely influence Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The conclusions of a meeting of tribal elders in Kabul next week will likely influence Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The bomber was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, police say
  • Suicide bomber gets close to meeting site for tribal leaders
  • The Taliban says it has obtained copy of detailed security plans of upcoming meeting with tribal elders
  • The government has dismissed the Taliban's claims

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan security forces on Monday killed a suicide bomber near where an important meeting of tribal elders will be held in the capital, Kabul, this week, the nation's Interior Ministry said.

The bomber attempted to reach the area where the meeting or loya jirga will be held, according to ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi. General Ayoub Salangi, chief of Kabul police, said the bomber was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase when he was stopped.

He was "killed right before the first checkpoint, at least 500 meters away," Sediq Seddiqi said. He denied reports that the interior minister was in the area at the time.

The development came a day after a Taliban-affiliated website published what it claimed was a leaked document containing confidential government security plans for the meeting -- one that is set to discuss Afghanistan's long-term relationship with the United States and possible peace talks with the insurgency.

Meanwhile, police arrested a man they believe could be the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, according to Seddiqi. The suspect was taken into custody Monday morning in the province of Paktika, Seddiqi added. While authorities were working to confirm his identity, they said the man had admitted to "working to spread Taliban propaganda."

"Today in the morning police arrested four people including this man," Seddiqi said, adding there was no evidence to suggest the man was linked to Sunday night's leaking of the security plans.

There have been previous reports of Taliban spokespeople being arrested that later turned out to be erroneous. Some observers believe that Zabiullah Mujahid is a name used by a series of people who speak on behalf of the group, making the definitive arrest of a spokesman hard to ascertain.

The telephone number used by the spokesman also changes regularly, making a concrete identification even harder.

Later in the day, some media in Kabul reported on their Twitter accounts speaking to a man identifying himself as Zabiullah Mujahid, adding to confusion as to his whereabouts.

The leaked security plans included a detailed satellite map of the area and purported details of the security arrangements, but the Interior Ministry immediately dismissed them as fake.

The tribal elder meeting is considered by many an important step in harnessing Afghan consent to both a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and any possible peace deal with elements of the insurgency. It is due to begin Wednesday and continue for several days; hundreds of community leaders have been invited from across the country. Their conclusions will likely influence Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The Taliban have long threatened to disrupt the event. Sunday's alleged leak was interpreted in Kabul as anything from a desperate insurgency resorting to fraudulent propaganda to a new sign of the Taliban's enhanced ability to elicit confidential information from government ministries. Regardless, the report of the leak is a sign of the information war between coalition forces and the insurgency, both of whom regularly trade blows and accusations on social media.

A translated statement on the website read: "The vigilant Mujahedeen of Islamic Emirate have acquired the security plans, maps and other documents related to the upcoming supposed loya jirga (National Assembly) by means of its personnel embedded inside the enemy ranks."

The Interior Ministry dismissed the post, saying it only served as part of a failing propaganda campaign aimed at intimidating people from attending the loya jirga.

"This is yet another huge lie by the Taliban," said Seddiqi. "It is part of a propaganda campaign and it is what we can expect. The Taliban are under pressure -- they have tried to disrupt and have failed to do so. That is why they are resorting to this propaganda."

He rejected the notion of jirga delegates avoiding the meeting because of the alleged leak.

The document said the following could be "probable threats" posed by the Taliban:

-- "Suicide attacks with new and dangerous tactics in one or several places continuing for several hours";

-- "Rocket attacks from Kabul city sub-districts or districts outside";

-- "Infiltration of enemy into the lines of security forces."

The statement on the website also said, "These important secrets which you will see in the below pages have been acquired by Mujahedeen of Islamic Emirate from two ministries and from the special security corps of the government. Our upcoming attacks will become even more lethal and precise with the acquisition of such intelligence material, if God wills it."

The statement went on to promise further details: "Note -- The original security plans which consist of 28 pages and six pictorial maps have been recomposed and rewritten by us for intelligence and policy purposes. We will release the second, third, 28th sides of the plan and a map to show its validation and will also release the pictorial part of it in the near future, if Allah Wills it."

NATO's International Security Assistance Force was aware of the message on the website, but could not confirm the accuracy of it, spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.

"The Taliban have said they would go to all extremes to disrupt the loya jirga," he said.

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