Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Two significant Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital have been thwarted in the last three weeks, Afghan intelligence officials said Wednesday, an indication both of success in foiling such plots and of insurgents' continuing determination to carry them out.
One of the planned attacks involved a complex strike aimed at the presidential palace in the center of Kabul and the other revolved around a suicide bombing meant to kill Afghanistan's first vice president, Mohammed Fahim, said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency.
Major attacks in the capital by insurgents have been relatively rare in the last eight months, although an explosion Tuesday killed a policeman and wounded three other people and an attack on a military bus last month left five Afghan army officers dead.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials have attributed the drop-off to a concerted campaign by coalition forces against the Haqqani network, a Taliban offshoot that operates mainly in eastern Afghanistan.
The Haqqanis have been blamed for a number of spectacular attacks in the capital in the last several years, including the storming of a luxury hotel and the bombing of the Indian Embassy. Those assaults killed and wounded scores of people.
The five men arrested in the alleged plot against Fahim were "very close to attacking," Mashal said. He described them as members of the Haqqani network. The two suspects who allegedly planned to stage a bombing near the presidential palace had earlier been involved in rocket attacks against coalition forces, the spokesman said.
Mashal acknowledged that, overall, 2010 "unfortunately was not a good year from a security point of view." In many parts of the country, the Taliban and other insurgent groups grew stronger, Afghan and Western officials have said.
However, Mashal said some provinces, including Kabul, were safer now than a year ago.
Also Wednesday, the NATO force announced that two Western service members had been killed by roadside bombs in the country's south and east. Their nationalities were not disclosed.
The south and east are the Taliban movement's main strongholds, and most of the additional U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan during the last year have been directed to those two areas.