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.