The Department of State added two “explosive experts” from the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin to its list of specially designated global terrorists for their involvement in suicide attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan. One of the attacks involved a female suicide bomber. Another resulted in the deaths of two US soldiers and four US civilian contractors.
The two Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) explosive experts who were designated today are Abdul Saboor and Abdullah Nowbahar. At the end of February 2015, State’s Rewards for Justice program offered $3 million for information leading to Saboor’s arrest, and $2 million for information on Nowbahar.
The HIG explosives experts “participated in the September 18, 2012 attack on a bus carrying foreign employees of Kabul International Airport that killed 12 people,” State noted in its designation. That attack was executed by a female suicide bomber. HIG spokesman Engineer Haroon Zarghoon, who claimed the attack, said it was executed to avenge a controversial film released on YouTube that depicts the life of the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light.
State also linked Saboor to a suicide attack in May 2013 that killed two American soldiers, four US civilian contractors, and eight Afghans, including two children. That suicide attack was also claimed by HIG’s spokesman. “We planned this attack for over a week,” Zarghoon told Reuters at the time.
HIG is a breakaway faction of the Hizb-i-Islami political party, which has joined the Afghan government. It is a radical Islamist group that is aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who expressed his support for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in 2006.
“We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” Hekmatyar said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.
“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”
Hekmatyar is also closely tied to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. He has made offers to end the insurgency several times since 2009, but the terms — that NATO withdraw its forces, the suspension of the Afghan constitution, and the installation of an Islamic government — generally mirrored those of the Taliban.
HIG has an extensive network throughout Afghanistan, and coordinates operations in the capital with the so-called Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, 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, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
HIG forces have conducted attacks throughout Afghanistan, and have bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan.