8 Afghan Security Officials Suspended After Attack on President

Afghanistan's top civilian counterterrorism official and Kabul's police chief are among eight security officials who have been suspended from their posts following a recent assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai, authorities said Monday.

The attorney general's office will question the officials, who were considered responsible for security during the April 27 attack, said Hayatullah Hayat, a spokesman for the office.

Karzai escaped unhurt from the gunfire during a military parade in Kabul that was also attended by foreign ambassadors. Three other people, including a lawmaker, were killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attempt on Karzai's life. But officials have also blamed Al Qaeda-linked militants based in neighboring Pakistan and have arrested two Afghan government employees for alleged involvement in the plot.

Hayat did not specify why the eight officials — among them Abdul Manan Farahi, the Interior Ministry official in charge of counterterrorism — were suspended. He said their fate, including whether they could face criminal charges, will be determined after questioning, but did not say if they were considered suspects or whether they were removed because of negligence.

The attack was at least the fourth attempt to kill Karzai since he came to power six years ago. It highlighted the U.S.-backed president's weak grip on the country and its overall tenuous security situation.

The Taliban, who were toppled from power in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion, are leading a raging insurgency that is strongest in Afghanistan's south and east but has also managed attacks in the capital. Despite the presence of more than 60,000 U.S. and NATO-led troops and rapidly growing Afghan security forces, Karzai has struggled to contain the militant movement.

At least 1,200 people have died in fighting in 2008, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press of figures from Western and Afghan officials. The U.N. says more than 8,000 people, most of them militants, died in insurgency-related violence in 2007.