By RAHIM FAIEZ
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign minister Wednesday asked Pakistani authorities to look for the reasons behind militant violence in their country instead of blaming Afghanistan.
The comments from Amir Khan Muttaqi came two days after Pakistani officials said the attackers who orchestrated Monday’s suicide bombing that killed 101 people in northwest Pakistan staged the attack on Afghan soil.
During a ceremony to inaugurate a drug addiction treatment center in the capital of Kabul on Wednesday, Muttaqi asked Pakistan’s government to launch a serious investigation into Monday’s mosque bombing in Peshawar.
He insisted that Afghanistan was not a center for terrorism, saying if that was the case then attacks would have also taken place in other countries.
“If anyone says that Afghanistan is the center for terrorism, they also say that terrorism has no border,” Muttaqi said. “If terrorism had emanated from Afghanistan, it would have also impacted China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Iran.”
“We have to cooperate with each other, instead of blaming each other,” he said. “Both countries are brothers to each other and must work in a peaceful environment together.”
Authorities in Pakistan said Wednesday the death toll from Monday’s suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar increased by one to 101. It was not clear how the bomber was able to slip into the walled police compound in a high-security zone with other government buildings.
Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif on Tuesday accused the Pakistani Taliban, or Tahreek-e Taliban-Pakistani, or TTP, of carrying out the attack, saying they were operating from neighboring Afghan territory. He demanded the Afghan Taliban take action against them. A TTP commander earlier claimed responsibility, but a spokesperson for the group later distanced the TTP from the carnage, saying it was not its policy to attack mosques.
During the nearly 20-year U.S. war against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, militant groups blossomed in the tribal regions of Pakistan along the border and around Peshawar. Like the Taliban, they took root among the ethnic Pashtuns who make up a majority in the region and in the city.
Some groups were encouraged by the Pakistani intelligence agencies. But others turned their guns against the government, angered by heavy security crackdowns and by frequent U.S. airstrikes in the border region targeting al-Qaida and other militants.
Chief among the anti-government groups was the Pakistani Taliban. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, it waged a brutal campaign of violence around the country. Peshawar was the scene of one of the bloodiest TTP attacks in 2014, on an army-run public school that killed nearly 150 people, most of them schoolboys.