The Afghan Taliban claimed credit for today’s suicide assault on a police headquarters in Jalalabad in the eastern province of Nangarhar that killed 18 people.
A heavily armed suicide assault team consisting of seven fighters opened the attack on the police station in Jalalabad City by ramming a truck packed with explosives into the outer wall of the compound. Six fighters armed with assault weapons and suicide vests then stormed the compound and engaged with Afghan forces for nearly six hours before being killed.
Ten Afghan policemen, including a district police chief, were killed during the attack, as well as a student and all seven Taliban fighters. Three of the Taliban fighters are said to have detonated their vests.
At Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group claimed the attack and said that more than 20 policemen were killed after “a group of martyrdom-seeking Mujahideen attacked the enemy’s military installations in Jalalabad city, using heavy and light arms.” The Taliban said that one of the fighters communicated via cell phone with Al Emara, the Taliban’s propaganda arm, during the assault.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry accused the Taliban’s “supporters outside Afghanistan,” a reference to Pakistan, of facilitating the attack.
“Aimed at destabilizing the country, the terrorists and their supporters outside Afghanistan in the continuation of subversive activities targeted a police station in Jalalabad city Thursday morning, killing 10 police and a civilian and wounding 15 others,” an Interior Ministry statement said, according to Xinhua.
Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber, and hosts the main supply route from Pakistan.
The Taliban have launched a number of suicide attacks against Coalition and Afghan bases in Nangarhar. Many of those attacks have targeted the main ISAF airbase in Jalalabad. The last such attack in Nangarhar took place in January when a Taliban assault team struck at an International Security Assistance Force and Afghan military base in the Ghani Khel district. One ISAF soldier was killed while repelling the assault.
The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan, including in Nangarhar province. In 2011, the Taliban appointed Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah to lead its Peshawar Regional Military Shura; he was added to the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s list of “individuals and entities associated with al Qaeda” in 2009.
A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009. He has since been released and was spotted at the funeral of Awal Gul, who was detained by US forces in 2002 and died at Guantanamo Bay on Feb. 1, 2011. Gul was a Taliban commander in Nangarhar province whom bin Laden had allegedly entrusted with $100,000 to aid al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan in late 2001. [See LWJ report, Tora Bora Military Front commander speaks at funeral of former Gitmo detainee.]
The Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda and is supported by Pakistan’s military, also is known to operate in Nangarhar. Afghan intelligence linked the Feb. 19, 2011 suicide assault on a bank in Jalalabad to the Haqqani Network, and said the attack was planned inside Pakistan with the help of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.