Wounded Afghan spy chief returns from US: officials

Former Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid speaking during an interview with AFP on March 25, 2008. Afghanistan's spy chief has returned home from lengthy medical treatment in the United States after being badly wounded by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his underwear

Afghanistan's spy chief returned home on Wednesday from lengthy medical treatment in the United States after being badly wounded by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his underwear.

The bomber posing as a Taliban peace envoy wounded National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief Asadullah Khalid at a guest house run by the intelligence agency in Kabul on December 6.

"The enemies of peace and security attacked the director of NDS in a strike that failed and he was taken for treatment first inside and then outside the country," the spy agency said in a statement.

"Finally after around four months of treatment, with the help of God, today at around 8.30 am, he returned home with good health."

Based on the witness account of a man who survived the attack, officials said the attacker was about a metre (3.3 feet) from the spy chief when he detonated the bomb.

The bomber, who died, was eating in the guesthouse when Khalid entered the room and blew himself up after Khalid answered his mobile, apparently identifying himself, according to officials at the time.

Large posters and banners bearing photographs of Khalid were erected on main roads in Kabul to welcome him home.

The fact that an assassin was able to get so close to one of Afghanistan's most prominent officials raised questions about whether the visitor was an insider known to Khalid.

But the revelation that the explosives were hidden in his underwear also suggested that he was not thoroughly searched -- an omission in many security routines in Afghanistan.

Khalid, known for being a fierce anti-Taliban figure and close to President Hamid Karzai, had only been in the job for a couple of months before the attack.

He was treated at a US-run military hospital at Bagram airbase outside Kabul before being flown for treatment in Washington DC, where he was visited by both Karzai and US President Barack Obama.

Karzai said the attack was planned in neighbouring Pakistan, an accusation that Islamabad rejected.

Former Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid speaking during an interview with AFP on March 25, 2008. Afghanistan's spy chief has returned home from lengthy medical treatment in the United States after being badly wounded by a suicide bomber who hid explosives in his underwear.