Taliban suicide team assaults provincial police headquarters

Video shows aftermath of attack on the Gardez police headquarters. Source: Bilal Sarwary.

A Taliban suicide team stormed the provincial police headquarters in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia today, killing at least six policemen before ultimately being gunned down.

The attack on the police headquarters in the provincial capital of Gardez took place in the early morning. The Taliban suicide team used tactics that have been perfected by multiple jihadist groups on numerous battlefields over the past decade and a half.

First, a suicide bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives and detonated his payload at the main gate, opening a breach for the assault team to enter the compound. Then, a heavily armed assault team fanned out to shoot anyone they could before they occupied a building inside the compound. Afghan forces battled the Taliban team throughout the day before killing the last remaining attacker.

In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed the strike under the aegis of Operation Mansouri, its most recent spring offensive.

“The attack began at 06:22 am local time when a Mujahid from the martyrdon [sic] seeking battalion of Islamic Emirate detonated his explosive-laden vehicle inside the base following which multiple other martyrdom seekers entered the site and began engaging the enemy,” the group claimed.

The Taliban later claimed it killed more than 200 members of the Police Special Unit, and named the five attackers. A video published by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary showed the aftermath of the attack and the destructions of a large area of the police compound.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and its branches.  It is also used by allied groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Shabaab, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

The Taliban used this tactic to penetrate security at the Afghan National Army’s 209th Shaheen Corps Headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province in April. A ten man strong team dressed in Afghan military uniforms killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers using both gun fire and bomb blasts.

In the past, the Taliban has claimed to have “thousands of fully armed martyrdom seekers” at its disposal to conduct attacks inside Afghanistan and has provided some information on the structure of its “martyrdom units,” “martyrdom-seekers battalion,” and “suicide groups.” These units all fall under the command of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the military commander for the Taliban and one of the group’s two deputy emirs.

The Haqqani Network, an integral faction of the Taliban, operates in eastern Afghanistan. This Taliban faction has a significant presence in Paktia province, where today’s suicide assault took place.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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