Afghan intelligence officials have thwarted a plot to assassinate U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (search) and arrested three Pakistanis, two senior government officials said Monday.
The men, who were armed with rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles, were arrested in the Qarghayi district of Laghman province on Sunday, just 150 feet from where Khalilzad had planned to inaugurate a road with Afghanistan's interior minister, the officials told The Associated Press.
One of the officials — both of whom have intimate knowledge of the investigation — said Afghan television would broadcast a video of the men in custody later Monday. He said the suspects had confessed to the crime and told authorities they were in Afghanistan (search) "to fight jihad," or holy war.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, due to the extreme sensitivity of the intelligence and their positions within the government
Khalilzad canceled his appearance at the road opening at the last minute and was never in danger, the official said. The interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, also canceled his appearance.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul had no immediate comment on the arrests, saying it would release a statement later. Pakistan also had no comment.
The men were arrested by members of the National Security Directorate, Afghanistan's version of the CIA, after a tip that the assassination plot was in the works.