A three-man suicide team stormed the Khost provincial headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service earlier today, killing six intelligence and police officials and wounding seven.
The three attackers, likely members of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, dressed National Directorate for Security uniforms and drove a car with Afghan National Police markings up to the main gate of the headquarters and launched their attack, according to a report from the Afghanistan NGO Security Office (ANSO). The attackers threw hand grenades at the guards at the main gate, and then moved onto the second gate.
Two of the attackers then exited the vehicle and engaged the guards at the second gate, while the driver detonated the car bomb. According to ANSO, the attack ended there. Two policemen and three intelligence officers were killed, and one policeman and seven intelligence officers were wounded in the fighting and explosions.
But a slightly different account was given to Reuters. According to a police officer, the two remaining attackers then proceeded into the compound and continued the attack. One of the men headed to the counter-narcotics department building, and another entered the main headquarters building of the intelligence service. Both were killed after gunfire and explosions were reported.
The Afghanistan NGO Security Office described the attack as “unusual” as three suicide bombers were used in the assault, “but in this case seems to have been chosen because of the perceived high value of the intended target.” No senior Afghan police or intelligence official has been reported killed in the attack.
Khost province in the home of the Haqqani Network, which is run by former mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. Both Jalaluddin and Siraj have close ties with al Qaeda its leader, Osama bin Laden.
The Haqqanis have extensive links with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency. The relationship with the ISI has allowed the Haqqani network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold across the border in the neighboring tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of the tribal area, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces. The Haqqanis have established multiple training camps and safe houses used by al Qaeda leaders and operatives, as well as by Taliban foot soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan.
Siraj has risen in prominence over the past year. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan, including the military-styled assault on the Serena Hotel and the attack on a parade in Kabul that targeted President Karzai. He is also the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan and has offered a $200,000 reward for his capture.
Today’s attack on the Khost NDS headquarters is the latest in a series of targeted strikes against senior Afghan police and intelligence officials. Taliban suicide teams hit security headquarters in southern Afghanistan on two consecutive days in September.
On Sept. 6, a Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a secure government building in southwestern Afghanistan province of Nimroz detonated his vest. The attack killed six people, including Nimroz province’s intelligence chief and his 20-year old son.
The next day, two Taliban suicide bombers entered a police headquarters in Kandahar province and searched for a senior police general in charge of border security at the Spin Boldak crossing point. Six policemen were killed and 37 were wounded, including the general, in the bombings.