Bodyguard held over plot to assassinate Hamid Karzai

Six people, including one of Hamid Karzai's bodyguards, have been arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate the Afghan president, officials in Kabul said yesterday.

Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, said that the attack was planned in Pakistan, an allegation which will disrupt Mr Karzai's attempts to soothe relations between the two countries.

Spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said that the six detained men, including university students and a medical professor, had ties with al-Qa'ida and the Haqqani network. They were said to have raised $150,000 to fund their activities, and had apparently plotted to kill Mr Karzai on a trip out of the capital.

If the new allegations are true – and security officials provided videotaped confessions yesterday – they would amount to at least the fourth such attempt on Mr Karzai's life since he took office in 2002.

But few details were provided about the nature of the arrested men's ties to al-Qa'ida or the Haqqani network, which is based in Pakistan and was recently blamed for the murder of peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani. It was already being suggested last night that the allegations would be seen by some as a deliberate attempt to discredit Islamabad.

The bodyguard, Mohebullah Ahmadi, was from Mr Karzai's home village in southern Kandahar. He was not a senior member of the team that protects Mr Karzai – he worked at one of the exterior gates to the presidential palace, Mr Mashal said.

Nonetheless, his security pass gave him access to large swathes of the palace.

The allegation that the plotters had successfully recruited someone inside Mr Karzai's protection team will rekindle scepticism that the Afghan security services will ever be able to eliminate insurgent infiltration of their ranks.