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3rd 'Turban bomb' attack rocks southern Helmand province


Blood stained turban.jpg

A blood-stained lungee (turban) lies on the ground after a suicide bomber detonated himself and killed the mayor of Kandahar City, July 27, 2011. The bomber had tucked an explosive device inside his turban to carry out the attack. Reuters.


For the third time this summer, a Taliban suicide bomber with an explosive device hidden within his traditional Afghan headdress detonated at an Afghan government center. The Friday attack occurred during a ceremony marking Afghanistan's Independence Day held at the Helmand Military Corps Center. Three Afghan National Policemen were wounded in the attack.

The Taliban-led insurgency is increasingly relying upon formerly-taboo tactics such as female suicide bombers and bombs rigged to traditional Afghan headdresses, called lungee, referred to by the West as "turbans." These tactics have raised the ire of many Afghan communities, particularly among those in Kandahar and Helmand. Afghan lungee are not searched at security checkpoints because of the acute level of cultural sensitivity regarding headdresses. The Taliban have exploited this dynamic and conducted at least three such "turban-bombings" since July 14.

On July 14, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his headdress during a funeral ceremony for the slain half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, killing four people, including the ulema council leader, Maulvi Hikmatullah Hikmat, and another senior religious cleric. The National Directorate of Security chief for Kandahar, General Mohammed Naim Momin, immediately condemned the attack and said it violated the Pashtun legal code known as Pashtunwali. "We respect those people who wear turbans and did not check the turban as a sign of respect, but he betrayed this respect and hid explosives in his turban," he told the New York Times.

On July 27, a suicide bomber killed the mayor of Kandahar City, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, after he exited a meeting and was speaking on his cellphone in a courtyard. The bomber rigged a small amount of explosives in his lungee and approached Hamidi, locking him in a bear hug before detonating the device that killed both of them.

By Aug. 9, President Karzai had met with ulema councils from around Afghanistan and urged a collective strategy to help end the use of "turban bombs" before the phenomenon became more widespread. Karzai asked the clerics to launch a public information campaign to "convince militants not to use turbans and other religious attire to carry out suicide bombings, not to target mosques and to make them aware that suicide was un-Islamic," according to a spokesman for Karzai.

Not surprisingly, the Taliban denied responsibility for the July 14 suicide bombing in Kandahar that killed Maulvi Hikmatullah, and denied that Mayor Hamidi was killed by a "turban bomb." The Taliban, under increased pressure from a stepped-up targeted assassination campaign by NATO and Afghan forces, have been resorting to acute asymmetrical tactics and brutality, including the wanton massacre of Afghan civilians.



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READER COMMENTS: "3rd 'Turban bomb' attack rocks southern Helmand province"

Posted by gerry at August 20, 2011 6:57 PM ET:

I'm actually surprized the Taliban or Al Queda hadn't started packing 20 lbs of TNT up their rectum long ago. TNT in a turbin is only one step away.

Posted by Norita at August 20, 2011 7:45 PM ET:

This is a fact of life now and most Americans are too busy watching Jersey Shore and Jon Stewart to notice. Thanks for reporting this stuff. I have faith that at some point the minority who is not asleep at the wheel will prevail and succeed in waking the rest of the idiots from their stupor. I just hope we are not Amerabia by then.

Posted by Morgan at August 21, 2011 12:24 AM ET:

A TBIED.....what will they think of next?

Posted by Neil Dunwald at August 21, 2011 2:45 AM ET:

ISAF has reportedly engaged in military campaigns but I have never heard of an official assassination campaign. What is the difference between assassination and targeted assassination? What political or religious reason does Mr. Dupee ascribe to the killing of Taliban? What sources does he have? Which Taliban does he consider important? The definition of assassination follows:

assassinate |??sas??n?t|
verb (often be assassinated)
murder (an important person) in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons.

Posted by HFXX at August 21, 2011 8:55 AM ET:

Have the Taliban ever directly targeted civilians on this scale or frequency before? Totally giving up on or at least conceding hardened targets should be a sign that whatever ISAF/NATO is doing, it's working. The Taliban can't possibly hope to spin all of the wanton killing. It reeks of desperation on their part.

How many valuable veteran commanders do they even have left? It seems that they are getting zapped on both sides of the border regularly. Though as they may have a relative safe haven in Pakistan, losing the talented commanders hurts. They may send back just as many that are killed, but they will be considerably less effective.

There's no reasoning with the jihadits who are willing to go up against special forces, AC-130 gunships and drones buzzing overhead 24/7. The adopted tactic of going after their ability to organize is the correct one, in my opinion. Time will tell if the ANA can absorb the suicide attacks and some attrition, while ISAF focuses on eliminating leadership types. With the draw down of forces, this seems to be the plan going forward.

Posted by guadagnare at August 21, 2011 12:42 PM ET:

You are absolutely right, the Taliban-led insurgency is increasingly relying upon formerly-taboo tactics. Female suicide bombers but teenage bombers too. A teenage suicide bomber had jumped into the mosque through a window and blew himself up, killing 56 people and injuring another 116 on Friday! Where will we end?

Posted by Lisa at August 21, 2011 10:15 PM ET:

Stating the obvious - turbans are taboo from searches for religious reasons? Well I think it's time to change that policy after the sanctity of the turban has been exploited three times. Once was enough. And when was the last time a member of the Taliban fully and whole-heartedly adhered to Muslim beliefs.

Posted by jay at August 22, 2011 7:07 AM ET:

In the end I think that the Taliban's goal in this is forcing our hand to search turbans and women in a more invasive manner as much as it is their goal to blow people up.

From their perspective it seems that blowing up a few civilians might cause some Afghans to hate the Taliban.

BUT if ISAF starts pulling off every turban (note: they are not a hat and you have to spend time winding them up) at every checkpoint and searching women more thoroughly you can bet that MOST Afghans will have increased animosity toward ISAF at the least.

And really there is no winning if all the Afghans hate ISAF

Posted by villiger at August 22, 2011 2:38 PM ET:

Lisa, also as far as i know the turmans are a cultural thing and not religious, as in prescribed bu the Quran.

In the case of Sikhs, it is a religious thing, but the two are not in any way connected.

So frisking turbans is going to have to become the norm.

Ane very valid point about the Taliban and muslim beliefs.

Posted by Bungo at August 24, 2011 12:23 PM ET:

I'd like to see how the TBs are constructed. There is probably a wire connection down from the turban where the suicider can trigger it with his hand. If this is so you wouldn't have to remove the turban but simply search for the wire coming down. Just make the suspect suicider hold up his arms and look for the wire/trigger. I doubt the trigger is wrapped up in the turban as with the explosive, that would be too tricky and un-wieldy to operate.