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    Pakistan acknowledges having links to Haqqanis

    KABUL (PAN): A senior Pakistani military official has said several countries have ties to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani group, blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

    The acknowledgement comes after top US officials accused Islamabad and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of involvement in planning and facilitating the recent attack on the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.

    Addressing the US Congress last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said the Haqqani group was a close ally of the ISI and Pakistan was exporting terrorism and violence into Afghanistan.

    But Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani Army, accepted for the first time the ISI had links to Haqqanis. However, he added the spy agency's relations with the group did not mean it was supporting Haqqanis.

    “Spy agencies need to have links with their opponents and even terrorist groups,” Abbas claimed, saying the Haqqani network was active in eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan.

    However, the US and Afghan officials have said time and again the group was based in Pakistan’s tribal region of North Waziristan, planing and launching attacks on Afghanistan from there.

    The US has never shared with them any documents about the presence of the network in Pakistan, the spokesman said in an interview with CNN. "If someone is blaming us the only country maintaining contacts with the Haqqanis, there are others, too," Abbas said.

    According to Western spy networks, the Haqqanis are allegedly involved in  attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel, US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.

    Afghanistan's late chief peace negotiator himself had alleged that the group that attacked the hotel in June had been in phone contact with Miranshah-based people in North Waziristan.

    But the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief spurned the suggestion, saying: "We have closed all the mobile towers on this side of the border, but unfortunately across the border in Afghanistan mobile towers are working."

    Pakistanis would be surprised by the actions the US might or might not take against the militants on its soil, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday, without delving into the options the Americans had to target the network.

    Any unilateral military action would fuel anti-US sentiment in Pakistan, Abbas said, warning that such a move would have grave consequences.