The Taliban launched two more suicide assaults in the Afghan capital of Kabul over the past 24 hours. In the attacks, the Taliban targeted the headquarters of the Independent Election Commission and a guesthouse run by an American charity.
The first suicide assault took place last night as a four-man Taliban suicide assault team attacked the guesthouse of Roots of Peace, “an international humanitarian organization working to unearth dangerous landmines in war-torn countries and [that] empowers the local communities scarred by these indiscriminate weapons.” The charity also helps plant “sustainable crops.”
The attack began as a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives outside the main entrance to the charity. Three heavily armed fighters then entered through the resulting breach and stormed the compound.
Afghan forces responded and killed the three remaining members of the Taliban suicide assault team after several hours of fighting. Two civilians outside of the guesthouse were killed in the crossfire. The occupants of the charity survived by hiding in the building during the fighting.
The Taliban claimed last night’s attack on Voice of Jihad, their official website, and said they targeted a “church belonging to US embassy for converting the Afghans to Christianity, an abolished religion.” The Taliban identified the members of the suicide assault team as “Muhammad Zaman … from Paktia province … Zabihullah from Wardak, Muhammad Islmail from Logar and Obaidullah from Kunduz provinces.”
In today’s attack, a suicide assault team stormed a building next to the Independent Election Commission headquarters. Four or five Taliban fighters occupied the building, then opened fire on the IEC headquarters. The Taliban fighters also reportedly fired up to 15 rockets at the building. Afghan security forces battled the Taliban fighters for five hours before killing them. No IEC workers were killed during the attack.
Over the past nine days, the Taliban have stepped up attacks in Kabul. The al Qaeda-linked group has launched four suicide assaults in the capital since March 20, two of which have targeted the IEC headquarters. On March 25, five members of a suicide assault team killed a candidate for provincial elections in Kabul, two IEC workers, and two policemen, in an attack on the IEC headquarters. And on March 20, a Taliban assault team killed nine people in an attack at the Serena hotel in Kabul.
The recent spate of attacks in the capital is likely the work of what US military officials have previously called the Kabul Attack Network. This network is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Kunar, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network. In the US military files that were released by WikiLeaks, Taj Mir Jawad is identified as a key Haqqani Network leader.
The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using multiple suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic that is frequently used in Afghanistan by the Taliban and their allies, including the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Suicide assaults are also commonly executed by al Qaeda and allied jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.