2 Aug 2008

Pakistan denies embassy bomb claims

10:10 am on 2 August 2008

Pakistan's government has denied that its spy service was involved in last month's deadly bombing of India's embassy in Kabul.

Government spokeswoman Sherry Rehman was responding to media reports that Taliban sympathisers within the spy service, the ISI, helped in the attack

The bombing on 7 July killed 58 people including an Indian defence attache.

Ms Rehman told the BBC that the Pakistan government has already stated that there are no links or evidence of the spy service's involvement in the Kabul bombing.

"It was in the past during the Soviet jihad that a few pro-Taliban elements had found their way in, and with the change in policy have been firmly been rooted out, " she said.

Other Pakistani officials, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq also rejected any ISI involvement in the Kabul blast.

A US counter-terrorism official told CNN the evidence was not strong enough to draw a firm conclusion, but there is a "strong suspicion" the Taliban was behind the attack, and that some unspecified aid came from Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

The official would not say how the intelligence was gathered, but he said the evidence was presented to senior Pakistani officials by a top CIA official, Deputy Director Stephen Kappes

'No purge'

Ms Rehman also said there would be no purge of the ISI, which appeared to directly contradict an earlier statement she made to the AP news agency.

She had been quoted as saying: "Years of backing an anti-Soviet jihad has left its mark.

"There are probably still individuals within the ISI who are ideologically sympathetic to the Taliban and act on their own in ways that are not in convergence with the policies and interests of the government of Pakistan.

"We need to identify these people and weed them out."

However, Ms Rehman later said that she had been quoted out of context by the news agency.

Speaking to the BBC Urdu service, she said: "There is no question of any purge in the ISI.

The BBC contacted Pakistan's army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas but he would not respond to Ms Rehman's comments.