Arsala Jamal, the governor of Logar province, was assassinated today as he was speaking inside a mosque for Eid al Adha prayers.
Jamal was killed by a bomb that was “skillfully planted inside the microphone in the front part of the mosque,” Pajhwok Afghan News reported. A member of the provincial High Peace Committee, which is tasked with negotiating with the Taliban, is also reported to have been killed. Eighteen people were wounded in the blast.
While no group has claimed credit for the attack that killed Jamal, it was likely carried out by the Taliban or al Qaeda. Both groups have conducted similar attacks in the past. Today’s bombing is similar to the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader who was killed just two days prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the US. A pair of al Qaeda operatives posing as reporters killed Massoud by detonating explosives hidden in a camera.
Over the past several years, the Taliban have used hidden bombs to assassinate Afghan officials. Several senior officials, including Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan, were killed by explosives hidden in the turbans of suicide bombers.
Jamal served as governor of Logar for just six months before he was assassinated. He had previously served as governor of the eastern province of Khost, a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. A close ally of al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network is a Taliban subgroup that also operates in Logar province.
Jamal surfaced in the news just last weekend, when he disclosed that US special operations forces seized Latif Mehsud, a senior commander in the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, during an operation in Logar province. The US forces captured Latif as he was being escorted by Afghan security forces. Latif, a top aide to Hakeemullah Mehsud, was said to be negotiating an exchange of Afghan prisoners for cash.
Logar province, often described as the gateway to the Afghan capital of Kabul, has suffered deteriorating security over the past several years. In August, the Taliban took control of Azra district just days after the Afghan military claimed it defeated the Taliban there. Afghan senators recently said that security is deteriorating in Logar as well as in Ghazni and Badakhshan provinces while Afghan Defense and Interior officials “fudge” the security data to paint a rosy picture.