The Taliban claimed it carried out the suicide attack at a bazaar in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan that killed two ISAF soldiers and two Afghans.
The suicide attack took place today at a bazaar outside of the 203 Afghan Army Corps Headquarters in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that two of its soldiers were killed in the attack. Tolo News reported that two Afghan soldiers were killed, while The Associated Press claimed that two Afghan shopkeepers were killed. In the attack, 18 civilians were reportedly wounded.
The Taliban issued a statement on its website, Voice of Jihad, claiming that 19 “NATO invaders and their local minions got killed and 13 were severely hurt.” But the Taliban exaggerate Afghan and Coalition casualties on a daily basis, often claiming that scores of troops are killed and dozens of “tanks” are destroyed.
The Taliban claimed today’s attack was conducted by Mujahid Gul, an Afghan from Ghazni province. The Taliban also claimed that the last major suicide attack in the east, the Nov. 27 attack that killed 12 policemen at a regional police headquarters in Sharana in neighboring Paktika province, was also carried out by a Ghazni resident.
Both today’s attack and the Nov. 27 attack were carried out by the Haqqani Network, the dangerous al Qaeda-linked subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network runs the Taliban’s shadow governments in Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces. The shadow governments organize and direct attacks against Afghan and ISAF forces, raise funds for the Taliban’s operations, and administer the Taliban’s local government.
Al Qaeda also maintains a presence in Paktia province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. US military press releases document the presence of al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad Union cells in the districts of Gardez, Jani Khel, Zadran, and Zurmat; or four of Paktia’s 11 districts.
Background on recent attacks in the east
The Taliban and the Haqqani Network have attempted to overrun US and Afghan bases in the region. Since the beginning of September, six major assaults, with groups numbering between 50 and 200 Haqqani Network and allied fighters, have been launched at bases in Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces. A number of the attacks have included multiple suicide bombers dressed in US Army uniforms seized from convoys hijacked by Taliban fighters in Pakistan. Each attack was repelled, and in each attack the enemy incurred heavy losses.
Two of the attacks targeted Combat Outpost Margah in the Bermal district in Paktika. The Haqqani Network took heavy casualties in the Oct. 30 attack; 78 members of the assault team, including foreign fighters, were killed.
And on Sept. 24, the Haqqani Network attacked Forward Operating Base Gardez in a coordinated assault. The five-man team of Haqqani Network fighters breached the outer perimeter before being defeated.
Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces remain strongholds of the Haqqani Network despite the heavy regimen of special operations forces raids that has killed or captured scores of mid- and senior-level commanders and facilitators since the summer. Top US military commanders, including General David Petraeus, have claimed that the Haqqani Network’s leadership has been disrupted by the raids.
But the Haqqani Network maintains a strong presence in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Pakistani military has resisted US and NATO pressure to target the Haqqani Network and other terror groups.
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