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Afghanistan arrests 17 in alleged bombing plot

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Security agents have arrested 17 people allegedly trained in Pakistan who they believe planned to launch suicide attacks in three Afghan provinces, Afghanistan's intelligence agency said yesterday.

The U N refugee agency, meanwhile, said tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes by recent fighting in southern Afghanistan, and the number could increase.

The 17 people were detained in Nangarhar, Kunduz, and Kabul provinces and told authorities they attended training camps in Pakistan, according to Said Ansari, spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence agency. It was unclear when they were detained.

Ansari said militants in Pakistan encourage fighters to carry out suicide attacks by telling them girls in Afghanistan are not wearing Islamic clothes or studying subjects in school related to Islam.

The would-be bombers trained in Shamshatoo, an Afghan refugee camp near Peshawar, and at a camp near Data Khel in Pakistan's semiautonomous North Waziristan tribal region, Ansari said.

``They are telling those people that they should conduct suicide attacks because the foreigners who are here are doing bad things in Afghanistan that are unacceptable in an Islamic country," Ansari said at a news conference.

Few details were provided on the 17. One was Afghan, said Ansari, who did not reveal the nationalities of the others.

Pakistan's government signed a deal with pro-Taliban militants on Sept. 5 to end fighting that broke out in North Waziristan after the U S -led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Under the deal, militants agreed to not carry out violent acts, fan extremism, or send fighters into Afghanistan to attack local forces of foreign troops.

Pakistan's top military spokesman said Pakistan had no information on the 17 arrests and urged Afghan officials to convey its information to Pakistan.

``If there is any such evidence, this should be shared with us officially through the fastest channels so that we can verify it and take appropriate action," Major General Shaukat Sultan said. ``Sharing of such information with the media is absolutely unwise."

Taliban-linked militants have stepped up attacks this year, including those that use suicide bombers and roadside bombs. It's been the deadliest period in Afghanistan since late 2001, when U S -led forces ousted the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden.

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