KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan's intelligence agencies said Wednesday they had thwarted two major attacks in Kabul in the past 20 days, while three NATO service members were killed by roadside bombs.
The arrests highlighted the often underplayed dangers confronting the Afghan capital, which has largely been spared the kind of major attacks over the past year that have struck other parts of the country.
In Kabul, Latifullah Mashal, spokesman for the intelligence agencies, said authorities arrested five people plotting a suicide bomb attack at the home of First Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
Mashal said the five — members of the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked militant group based in neighboring Pakistan — were "very close to attacking" when they were detained. He would not give an exact timing of the arrests or the planned attack, citing security reasons.
The other foiled attack was a planned bombing near President Hamid Karzai's palace, Mashal said. The two suspects arrested in that case had been involved in rocket attacks against NATO and coalition forces in the past, he added.
Separately, NATO said three of its service members were killed by roadside bombs, one in southern Afghanistan and two in the east. The deaths brought to six the number of coalition service members killed since the start of the year. A record 702 NATO service members were killed in 2010.
NATO did not release the casualties' nationalities or provide further details, in line with its standard policy.
Over 150,000 NATO forces have been struggling to quell the insurgency. While NATO has focused its efforts on the south, the Taliban have expanded their operations into areas of Afghanistan once considered safe.
Adding to the worries are several cases of NATO mistakenly hitting civilians in strikes or raids — fatalities that have angered Afghan officials and provided fodder for Taliban propaganda. Even in cases where the reports have been disproved, they have still tarnished the coalition's image in many Afghans' eyes.
In latest such report, officials in the central province of Ghazni accused coalition troops of killing three civilians in an overnight operation. Ghazni governor Musa Ahmadzai and Khodada Alami, the chief of Nawur district, said incident occurred in a remote area near the border of Rashidan district.
NATO confirmed an operation in the area, but said coalition forces and their Afghan counterparts were targeting a man involved in selling weapons to the Taliban. They said three armed insurgents were killed and that there were no civilian causalities or fatalities.
In the neighboring province, Uruzgan, three Afghans working for a company contracted by the U.N.'s World Food Program to deliver food to a remote area were killed in an explosion Tuesday, the WFP said Wednesday. Details of the blast were not yet known and it was not immediately clear whether the three, who had all been in the same truck, were the intended targets, said WFP spokeswoman Challiss McDonough.
In Afghanistan's south, a local religious leader who had been working with the government, Maulvi Mohibullah Dotani, was shot to death by insurgents in Helmand province, said deputy police commander Kumaluddin, who like many Afghans goes by one name.
Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Elena Becatoros in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed.