Afghanistan UN Security Accessability Map (as of June 20, 2006).Click to view map, .PDF, approximately 1 Megabyte.
The Taliban have pulled off the largest suicide attack in Afghanistan since the US overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001. A pair of suicide bombers targeted a parliamentary delegation as it visited a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan. Over 90 were reported killed, including five members of parliament, and over 50 have been wounded. A local doctor said the casualties may well rise.
A large number of children and civilians were killed in the strike. Among those killed were Sayed Mustafa Kazimi, the leader of the parliamentary delegation and member of the opposition. Kazimi was also the head of the national economy commission of Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament.
“All of the slain lawmakers were members of the parliament’s National Economic Committee, which is tasked with overseeing reconstruction efforts in the country,” RFE/RL reported. “A deputy agriculture minister and prominent woman parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai were among the wounded,” Reuters reported.
The suicide attack threatens to destabilize the security situation in the north as the fractious political parties have used the threat of the Taliban to rearm. “Illegal ethnic-Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara militias in the north appear to be using the threat of a resurgent Taliban as an excuse to hoard weapons and more forcefully protect their interests, such as ruling over land they have controlled since the Taliban’s collapse or defending drug export routes that are a major source of income,” RFE/RL reported earlier this month.
The Taliban have ramped up the suicide campaign over the past year. Over 200 civilians have been killed in over 130 suicide bombings this year. “Statistics show that this year alone, Afghanistan was hit by more suicide attacks than in all past years combined,” the Jamestown Foundation noted in a report discussing the ideology of suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
In June, the Taliban released a video of a graduation of suicide teams assigned to strike in the US, Canada, and Europe. “Some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12,” were in attendance, according to video obtained by ABC News.
Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, the successor of recently slain Mullah Dadullah who was killed in Helmand province in May, addressed the graduation and “congratulated each team as they stood.” “These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places,” Dadullah says on the tape. “Why shouldn’t we go after them?”
The attacks in Afghanistan are directed from the Taliban and al Qaeda’s safe havens in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban/al Qaeda camp where the graduation ceremony was held is believed to be inside Pakistan. In the spring the Taliban held a major rally of upwards of 10,000 gatherers in Baluchistan to mourn the death of Mullah Dadullah. Pakistan’s Islamist political parties hosted the event.
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