At least 18 killed, including NATO service member, in two Afghanistan attacks

31.08.2013 22:47

A suicide bomber detonated his
explosives near a police checkpoint
and a bank in southern Afghanistan on
Saturday, one of two attacks in the
heartland of the insurgency that killed
18 people over 24 hours. Separately, a
NATO service member was killed by
insurgents in the country's east,
according to a military statement.
No group immediately claimed
responsibility for any of the attacks,
but Afghan President Hamid Karzai
blamed the bombings on the Taliban.
The militants have escalated their
activity as U.S.-led foreign forces
reduce their presence in the country
and are in the final phase of handing
over responsibility for security to
Afghan troops.
Karzai said the militants should stop
taking orders from foreigners — a
veiled reference to Pakistan, whose
intelligence services are alleged to be
in league with the Afghan Taliban. The
president said the security transition is
nearly complete and the militants were
desperate to derail it.
"Taliban leaders and commanders must
understand that with such crimes they
will achieve nothing, but only be hated
and disgust the people and God,"
Karzai said in a statement. "They must
be accountable for the Muslim nation
of Afghanistan."
Javed Faisal, a spokesman for the
provincial governor, initially said the
suicide bomber was in a car that was
being searched by police, but later said
new information indicated the bomber
had been on foot. Along with the
branch building of the New Kabul
Bank, several small shops and vehicles
were damaged.
Allauddin Khan / AP
An Afghan doctor carries a boy for
treatment at a hospital after a suici
bomb explosion in Kandahar provin
southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan,
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013.
Witness Shah Wali had just stepped out
of a taxi to go to the bank when the
attacker struck. "I saw a man and a
vehicle on the road, and while I was
fixing my shoelaces I heard a loud
explosion. I don't know if it was the
vehicle which exploded or the man
standing there," Wali said.
Faisal said at least six people died —
four of them civilians, one police
officer and one private security guard.
Another 24 people were wounded,
most of them civilians.
Taliban spokesmen did not immediately
respond to requests for comment. The
militant group is especially strong in
southern Afghanistan, which is
dominated by the ethnic Pashtun
community whose members form the
bulk of the insurgency in the country.
Another 12 people were killed in an
ambush involving a roadside bomb in
Sangin district in Helmand province,
also in the south, on Friday evening,
said Omer Zwak, a spokesman for the
provincial governor. Sangin is the
scene of an ongoing operation by
Afghan forces against the Taliban.
Zwak said 11 men and one woman
died in the attack, and that the vehicle
also was hit by several rounds of
gunfire. Such attacks typically target
security forces, but, in this case, "the
victims are all civilians and had no link
with the government," Zwak said.
Afghan and coalition officials have
warned that the Taliban would
intensify the tempo of their attacks
following the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan, as they try to take advantage
of the two or three months left of
good weather before the harsh Afghan
winter sets in. The traditional fighting
period lasts from March until the end
of October.
The NATO service member died in "a
direct fire attack by enemy forces in
eastern Afghanistan" on Saturday,
according to a statement from the
military alliance. The statement did not
give any further details on the person
killed. Mostly U.S. troops operate in
eastern Afghanistan.
There are currently about 100,000
troops from 48 countries in
Afghanistan with the U.S.-led
International Security Assistance Force,
60,000 of them American. By the end
of this year, the NATO force will be
halved, and all foreign combat troops
are expected to be gone by the end of
next year.
Because of the drawdown, much is
riding on the abilities of the fledging
Afghan security forces, which now
number about 352,000.