KABUL: Officials in southern Afghanistan were at odds Sunday over a man some believe collected sensitive information by impersonating a parliament member in the violence-wracked country.
The unidentified man claimed to be a senator from Kabul and managed to meet the governor, police chief, and head of intelligence of the restive southern province of Kandahar last week.
“He showed a fake letter from the senate to the governor of Kandahar who then took him to a lot of places he should not have been,” Mohammad Alam Ezdyar, deputy chairman of Afghanistan’s senate told AFP.
“He was a cheat, he was neither a senator nor a member of provincial council. He has definitely gathered a lot of important and sensitive documents,” he said.
Radio Free Europe cited Bismallah Afghanmal, who represents Kandahar in parliament’s upper house, saying the supposed senator was taken to several districts in the province where he was given “every possible piece” of security information.
But Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the provincial government, said the man wanted to build a museum in Kandahar city and has not obtained any sensitive data.
“Last week this guy who called himself Asif Sarhadi came to Kandahar to build a museum. He introduced himself as a senator from Kabul,” he said. “He met with the police chief, head of Kandahar intelligence and the governor. He did not visit secret locations, he only had this simple informal chat with officials about his museum. We didn’t know he was not a senator,” he said.
Asif Sarhadi is not the name of any Afghan senator.
The man later disappeared, another source said, adding that his mobile phone was no longer taking calls.
The Taliban said that the fake senator was not one of their agents and they have called journalists to try to find out about him.
But the militants, who have fought a violent insurgency since their government was toppled in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, have in the past used false pretences to gain access to Afghan officials.
In September, a man posing as a Taliban peace envoy travelled from Kandahar to Kabul to meet Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s top negotiator, but then blew himself and Rabbani up with a bomb hidden in his turban.
In 2010 a scammer who claimed to be a high-ranking Taliban official was brought by Nato forces to meet President Hamid Karzai for peace talks.