Suicide bombers strike in Kunduz and Ghazni
The Taliban launched a pair of suicide attacks in northern and southeastern Afghanistan today, killing 12 people, according to reports. The largest attack, in the northern province of Kunduz, targeted and killed 10 policemen, "including the local counter-terrorism chief," Reuters reported:
Shortly after 5 p.m. (1230 GMT) a man driving a motorbike detonated a large bomb at a busy roundabout in the north city of Kunduz near a group of police officers, provincial police chief spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said.
"As a result of a suicide attack 10 policemen were killed, including the head of the traffic department and the head of the counter-terrorism office," said Hussaini.
Four civilians and five other police officers were wounded in the bombing, he said.
While no group has claimed the attack, it was likely carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda-linked group that has integrated its operations and command structure with the Taliban in the Afghan north. ISAF has targeted IMU suicide cells in the north as recently as last month. The IMU has claimed credit for several suicide attacks in the north, including the November 2011 assault on a US Provincial Reconstruction Team in the peaceful province of Panjshir. At the end of November 2011, the IMU issued a statement claiming that 87 of its members had been killed during operations in Afghanistan over the past year; many of those killed died in suicide attacks. The IMU commanders and fighters listed as "martyred" were from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Germany, and Russia.
The second suicide attack today took place in the southeast, in Ghazni province, according to Xinhua:
"A man riding a bicycle and attempting to target a police checkpoint in Ghazni city but the bomb exploded prematurely, leaving three people including himself and two others dead and a few others injured," deputy to provincial police chief Mohammad Hassan told Xinhua.
Baz Mohammad Humat, director of Civil Hospital in Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni province 125 km south of Kabul, confirmed that two bodies including a police and a civilian and 13 injured people including 10 civilians which include two children and a woman have been taken to the hospital.
A multitude of groups, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and a host of smaller foreign terror groups are known to operate in Ghazni.
Over the past 11 days, the Taliban and allied groups have launched five suicide attacks in Afghanistan; the previous three took place in central Afghanistan [see Threat Matrix report, Taliban suicide bomber kills 5 civilians in attack on ISAF convoy].
While Western leaders are pinning their hopes on reconciliation with the Taliban as NATO withdraws its forces (or "retrogrades," which seems to be the fashionable term for retreat these days), the Taliban do not appear to be letting up on their attacks against both NATO troops and Afghan National Security Forces.