Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, December 2008
21 Afghanis Killed in a Suicide Bombing, Pakistan Closes NATO Supply Line, Taliban Rules Through a Shadow Government
Rash of Bombings in Afghanistan
By ADAM B. ELLICK Published: December 29, 2008
Nashanuddin Khan/Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan --
A day after a suicide bomber killed at least 16 people, including 13 schoolchildren, in a region bordering Pakistan, a new rash of bombings shook different areas of Afghanistan on Monday, killing two civilians north of Kabul and two more in Kandahar Province.
Men inspected the wreckage of a suicide car bomb on Sunday in Khost Province, Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bomb, which was detonated next to a school.
Several Afghan provinces have been centers of violence.
The explosion on Sunday detonated outside a local government compound in Khost Province and wounded 53, local government officials and coalition forces said. The bombing, near the border with Pakistan, occurred next to a school, and many children were among the wounded.
The Taliban fighters claimed responsibility for the attack.
Coalition forces provided a video showing about 15 children walking on the street as they were engulfed by a ball of fire. Mark Larter, a spokesman for the coalition forces, said the death toll also was based on reports of troops at the scene. Two police officers were among the dead.
The number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan has fallen sharply since 2006, mainly because of better intelligence and a proliferation of security checkpoints. But in Khost Province, which borders the tribal area of Pakistan’s North Waziristan, a wave of violence continues to overwhelm security officials.
On Monday morning, moreover, a suicide car bomber in a black Toyota Corolla killed two civilians and wounded 15, including two American servicemen in Chire-kar, the capital city of Parwan Province just north of Kabul, U.S. forces and local government officials said
The attack occurred outside of the local governor’s office, and most of wounded were government employees, said Abdul Jabar Taqwa, the governor. Mr. Taqwa said he entered the compound only two minutes before the blast, and was unharmed. He said he noticed a U.S. convoy on the road near his office.
Several hours later, in Kandahar Province, a remote-controlled bomb exploded at a marketplace in Spin Boldak district, killing two civilians and wounding 19. Five of the wounded are in critical condition, said Zalmay Ayobi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar. The bomb targeted a passing police vehicle, but missed.
Despite the overall drop in the number of bombings, suicide attacks around the country have become more technically sophisticated and have grown in scale, including Sunday’s attack, in which a huge fireball towered over the compound’s security blockade.
In November 2007 in Baghlan Province, north of Kabul, a suicide bomb laced with ball bearings killed more than 70 people, including six members of Parliament, and wounded more than 100, mostly children.
Sunday’s blast occurred as local leaders and tribal elders gathered inside the government building to discuss security and elections, said Tahir Kahn Sabari, the deputy governor of Khost Province. At the nearby school, the bomb rattled students, ages 6 to 12, who were receiving certificates on the last day of the school year.
(Puppet) president Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying those responsible “are not aware of the Islamic teachings which outlaw the killing of innocent people.”
A day earlier the police acted on intelligence to locate a suicide car bomber as he tried to enter the city of Kandahar, said Matiullah Qait, provincial chief of Kandahar. Police vehicles chased the driver, and when he reached a security checkpoint west of the city, he detonated his explosives, killing three policemen and one civilian.
Also on Saturday, a roadside bomb killed two Canadian soldiers and two Afghans working alongside them in a dangerous region of southern Afghanistan, Canada’s military, quoted by The Associated Press, said on Sunday. Four other Canadian soldiers and one Afghan interpreter were wounded in the blast.
On Saturday night, a rare missile attack fell on Kabul, killing three teenage sisters, their family and the police said. The rocket likely was fired from west of the capital, near Wardak Province, where militants have developed a stronghold since last year. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sangar Rahimi and Taimoor Shah Noori contributed reporting.
Pakistan closes NATO supply line to Afghanistan
By Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Pir Zubair Shah
International Herald Tribune, December 30, 2008
Backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery, Pakistani security forces on Tuesday shut down a crucial supply line for NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan as they launched an offensive against Taliban militants who dominate the Khyber Pass region.
NATO uses the Khyber Pass, an ancient trade and military gateway that cuts through the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, to transport the majority of provisions for troops fighting the resilient Afghan insurgency. Supplies are ferried from Karachi in Pakistan 700 miles north to Peshawar, and then trucked 40 miles westward through the pass and into Afghanistan.
But Taliban fighters, including forces led by an upstart lieutenant to the warlord Baitullah Mehsud, have taken over the area between the pass and Peshawar, and now routinely attack convoys with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles.
Many drivers in the convoys have already quit making the trip because the route is so deadly. Militants also ransacked a half-dozen supply depots in Peshawar this month, burning 300 cargo trucks and Humvees destined for NATO troops.
The attacks — and the Pakistani government's inability to quell them — have sent American military officials scrambling to secure other supply routes into Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. NATO officials said that they believed that shutting down the route through the Khyber Pass during the military offensive that began Tuesday would not deprive them of necessary supplies.
"Over all, it's a temporary irritation," said a NATO spokesman in Kabul, Captain Mark Windsor of the British Royal Navy. "There will obviously be a minor effect in the short term, but it's for the long-term good of our operation."
However, Tariq Hayat, the top civilian official in the Khyber Agency, the formal name for the Pakistani district between the Khyber Pass and Peshawar, said there was no timetable for the operation, which he said would continue until "I am satisfied that the area is clear of all lawless and miscreant elements." Hayat declined to say how many troops were involved in the offensive, but he said they were drawn almost entirely from the country's paramilitary Frontier Corps. Pakistani Army soldiers are standing by in reserve should they be needed, he said.
He said that there had been no casualties during the offensive among Pakistani forces but that he had received a report that several children and a woman had been killed by an artillery shell.
Ibrahim Khan, who lives near the supply route in the village of Jamrud, said troops came through his village at 3:30 a.m., using loudspeakers to warn residents to stay inside. Helicopter gunships patrolled all day until the afternoon, he said.
Taliban Shadow Gov't Pervades Afghanistan
Two months ago, Mohammad Anwar recalls, the Taliban paraded accused
thieves through his village, tarred their faces with oil and threw them
It's not clear just how far the shadow government goes. Taliban
officials and analysts boast that there are now Taliban shadow governors
in almost every Afghan province.
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