President Karzai escapes assassination bid, parliamentarian killed


Hundreds flee the Mujahidin Parade ceremony in Kabul shortly after the Taliban attack.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai escaped a barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells fired on a ceremony he attended in Kabul. State-run television captured the pandemonium showing hundreds of visiting dignitaries, soldiers, and journalists running for cover after the gun fire began. In all, 11 people suffered serious wounds, including two military policemen. A local Shiite cleric and small child died in the attack.

Two parliamentarians seated 65-feet from Karzai’s position slumped over in their chairs after being hit in the back by gunfire. The two wounded parliamentarians have been identified as Muhammad Daud Zazai and Fazel Rahman Samkanai, both legislators from Paktia province, according to a fellow parliamentarian who spoke to the New York Times. Fazel Rahman Samkanai has reportedly died from the gunshot wound to his stomach, according to the Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie.

President Karzai fled the ceremony surrounded by bodyguards who ushered him down a back entrance and into one of four armored Land Cruisers. Both the British and American ambassadors also escaped the attack unhurt. President Karzai appeared on state television within the hour and urged calm among residents. “The enemy of Afghanistan, the enemy of the security and development of Afghanistan, tried to disrupt the celebration and tried to create fear,” he said. “Fortunately, the Afghan security forces surrounded them and some of the suspects were arrested, and, thank God, now everything is all right and the people of Afghanistan should be calm and confident.”

Hundreds gathered at the ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Afghan resistance’s victory over the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, known as Mujahideen Day, a national holiday. Although security was much tighter this year than last, six gunmen were able to occupy the rooftop of a three-story hotel only a few hundred yards from the ceremony. The security breach defied an intense 48-hour security crackdown conducted by the entire Kabul police force and elements of the Afghan National Army stationed throughout the capital who searched cars, residents, and buildings.

The attack began near the end of a 21-gun salute during a live band’s performance of the national anthem. Automatic gunfire peppered the ceremony’s bleachers and ricochets struck the main podium. Taliban attackers fired at least two BM-12 rocket shells, one of which slammed into the Eid Gah Mosque, opposite of President Karzai’s seat.

Afghan security personnel stormed the location of the gunmen and arrested nine men. Witnesses also claim three armed men were shot and killed during the raid. At least 100 people have been rounded up for questioning, according the head of Afghan intelligence. Taliban spokesman Zabibullah Mujahid called several media outlets claiming responsibility for the attack. “We fired rockets at the scene of the celebration. We had placed six personnel in the area,” he said from an undisclosed location. “Our aim was not to directly hit someone. We just wanted to show to the world that we can attack anywhere.”

A day before the attack, US and Afghan forces raided an insurgent hideout in neighboring Kapisa province targeting a Taliban commander thought to have been planning an attack on Sunday’s ceremony. Several insurgents were killed during the assault and some civilians suffered injuries, according to a US military statement. A suicide-bomb vest was confiscated from the insurgent compound following the raid.

The attack in Kabul is the most brazen assault since a small band of Taliban terrorists raided the heavily secured Serena hotel in mid-January. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in that suicide bomb assault. The last major attack in Kabul occurred last month when a suicide car bomber struck a Coalition convoy near Kabul’s international airport. Six people died in the blast and 15 others were wounded from the enormous explosion. Four US soldiers suffered minor cuts and bruises.



  • Sunday afternoon links (OPEN THREAD)

    Some links for your perusal:
    —– What she said: The Rev. Al Sharpton is threatening to “close down the city” of New York in outrage over last week’s acquittals of three NYPD officers in the shooting death of Sean Bell. The…

  • Marlin says:

    Personally, I believe it would be in our best interests if the U.S. did take over command of the Afghan mission.

    The Pentagon is considering whether it should push to change the NATO mission in volatile southern Afghanistan to give the US greater control in the fight against a growing Taliban threat.
    The move is one of many being assessed as fears rise that the collective effort of NATO forces there lacks coherence. The Taliban’s comeback over the past two years has been marked by a spike in suicide bombings and other violence – at the same time that critics say the complex command structure governing NATO and US forces has stifled combat and reconstruction efforts.
    Many coalition forces are watching the US closely to gauge the extent of its commitment to the Afghanistan mission. The nomination of Gen. David Petraeus, an expert in counterinsurgency and now the top commander in Iraq, to lead US Central Command could mean a new emphasis on what Afghanistan needs.

    Christian Science Monitor: U.S. to heighten Afghan role?

  • Marlin says:

    It appears more and more like the Taliban are just like al-Qaeda. They are most interested in attacks like this one in Kabul that will generate media attention. Every time they go up against NATO/US/Afghan Army Forces they get obliterated.

    A dozen insurgents were killed and a dozen more were wounded during a failed attack, Sunday, on Afghan National Army and U.S. bases in Kunar province’s Korengal Valley.
    An estimated 30 to 40 insurgents attacked five bases in the Korengal valley with small-arms fire, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and indirect fire.

    CJTF-101: A dozen insurgents killed, dozen more wounded in failed Kunar attack

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/28/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • Marlin says:

    There are two pieces of new (to me) information about Afghanistan in this article. First, that the approach of the British troops in Helmand province has been deemed to have not worked (just as in Basra). Second, that drug eradication by the Americans in Nangarhar province last year got growers there to switch to wheat production this year.

    As well as getting added firepower, the British will also come under pressure to adopt American counter-insurgency tactics as the US tries to lead a “mini-surge”

  • Marlin says:

    The Marines are now established in Garmser in the south of Helmand province.

    U.S. Marines exchanged gunfire with militants Tuesday after pouring into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan in the first major American operation in the region in years.
    Several hundred Marines, many of them veterans of the conflict in Iraq, pushed into the town of Garmser in pre-dawn light in an operation to drive out the insurgents, stretching NATO’s presence into an area littered with opium poppy fields and classified as Taliban territory.
    U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters were expecting an assault and planted homemade bombs in response. The British have a small base on the town’s edge but Garmser’s main marketplace is closed because of the Taliban threat.
    Marines moved into town by helicopter and Humvee for Tuesday’s assault in the southern province of Helmand, the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived last month from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a seven-month deployment. Another 1,200 Marines arrived to train Afghan police.

    Associated Press: US Marines move into Taliban-held area of Afghanistan

  • Marlin says:

    Bret Stephens corroborates the decrease in drugs and violence in Nangarhar province.

    In the northeastern city of Jalabad, I witnessed a meeting of 30 or so tribal elders, a provincial governor named Gul Agha Sherzai and Henrietta Fore, the capable administrator of USAID. Mr. Sherzai’s reputation for corruption is nearly as outsized as his gold watch, and his province, Nangarhar, was until recently a major source of terrorism and poppies. But now the poppy crop has been reduced by 80% and violence is way down. Both achievements have been purchased by a combination of astute counterinsurgency, firm governance and a huge influx of development money for schools, roads and medical clinics.
    Whether this formula will work equally well in places like Helmand and Kandahar remains to be seen. But it’s a useful reminder that things really are getting better in Afghanistan, even if the headlines suggest otherwise.

    Wall Street Journal: We’re Not Losing Afghanistan


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