Authorities have arrested eight people, including one in Saudi Arabia, in connection with this week's deadly attack on a guest house used by United Nations employees, the Afghan intelligence chief said Saturday. He said those arrested claimed the assailants came from Pakistan's Swat Valley.
Amrullah Saleh also told reporters that Afghan intelligence had advance information that a Taliban attack in Kabul was in the works but was expected during rush hour. Instead, the attackers struck just before dawn Wednesday, killing eight people — five of them United Nations foreign staffers. The three assailants also died.
Saleh's comments are likely to intensify criticism of the security provided to employees of the world body working in Afghanistan. The United Nations has already said that it took too long for Afghan police and NATO troops to respond to the attack.
Saleh said the eight men taken into custody in connection with the assault included an imam who provided a hide-out for the assailants before the attack. He did not elaborate on what role the other seven may have played.
He said Afghan authorities had no evidence that the assailants were from Pakistan apart from statements made by the detainees. The Swat Valley fell under Taliban control until Pakistani forces pushed out the militants in an offensive last spring.
Saleh said the guest house attack was directed by an al-Qaida operative known as Ajmal who fled to the Waziristan area of northwest Pakistan. Pakistani troops have launched an offensive in South Waziristan, stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.
According to Saleh, the imam, Qari Aminullah, runs a mosque and a religious school in west Kabul. He was picked up by Saudi police at the airport in Jiddah, he said.
"We were aware of the attack in Kabul city one week before," Saleh said. "Based on our information were able to prevent a part of the attack, by arresting of some of their men and disrupting their plans."
He did not say how specific the information was or what other plans were derailed.
The intelligence reports had suggested the attack would happen either after 7 a.m. or around 3 p.m., so police beefed up checkpoints and security during those times but not overnight, Saleh said.
The militants "used this opportunity and started their attack sooner than that time," he said.
United Nations security guards who were living in the house held off the gunmen for at least an hour on their own before security forces showed up, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.
Ban said the U.N. security team "repeatedly called for help from both Afghanistan government forces and other international partners."
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said the U.N. was demanding an explanation.
Saleh declined to answer questions about how quickly security forces responded.