Taliban suicide bomber kills deputy governor of Kandahar

A suicide bomber killed the deputy governor in the capital of Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar today.

The suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle laden with explosives into a car carrying Deputy Governor Abdul Latif as he drove in a convoy from his home to his office. Three bodyguards were also wounded in the attack.

The Taliban appear to have had good intelligence, as the suicide bomber picked Latif’s car out of the convoy.

Today’s suicide attack in Kandahar is the second in one of the country’s major cities in two days. Yesterday a suicide bomber killed eight people, including three foreigners, in an attack at a grocery in the capital of Kabul.

The Taliban have not yet claimed the attack in Kandahar, however the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or the Mullah Dadullah Front, a radical subgroup closely linked to al Qaeda, is suspected of having carried out the attack.

Mullah Dadullah Front is a wing of the Taliban in the south that has adopted al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in December 2010. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who has since been promoted as the Taliban’s top military commander and co-leader of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura. The Mullah Dadullah Front executed a suicide attack in Kandahar’s border city of Spin Boldak on Jan. 8 that killed 17 people, including a senior police commander allied with General Abdul Raziq, an anti-Taliban warlord in Kandahar.

The Taliban, under a directive issued by Mullah Omar, have responded to the Coalition and Afghan offensive in the south with a campaign of violence and intimidation. Taliban fighters have been directed to “capture and kill any Afghan who is supporting and/or working for coalition forces” and the Afghan government, as well as “any Afghan women who are helping or providing information to coalition forces.”

As part of the Taliban’s counteroffensive in Kandahar, the terror group has targeted tribal leaders, politicians, and other elites for assassination. More than 20 Afghans, including the district chief for Arghandab and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City have been killed since the spring of 2010. The Taliban’s counteroffensive is led by Mullah Muhammad Isa Akhund, the military commander for the province.

On Jan. 28, the Taliban claimed to have killed a “puppet traitor from Logar province working as a contractor for the Canadian invaders” in a shooting Kandahar city.” The statement was released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s website. The Taliban refer to Afghans who work for the government or with NAT0 forces as “puppets.”

Top leaders at the International Security Assistance Force and US politicians have described Kandahar as the strategic center of the country, and said the province is key to defeating the Taliban.

Coalition and Afghan special forces have heavily targeted the Taliban’s top leadership in Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province. Scores of mid- and senior-level leaders in Kandahar have been killed or captured over the past several months, including a “key” financier for the Mullah Dadullah Front; an unnamed senior commander who operated in Panjwai and was based out of the Pakistani city of Chaman; and another senior commander who is linked to Iraq’s Qods Force.

Numerous Taliban leaders operate from Chaman, which is across the border from Spin Boldak in Kandahar. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have allowed the Taliban to operate from Chaman and other locations, and they support Taliban operations in Afghanistan.

The special operations raids are carried out in support of ISAF and Afghan counterinsurgency efforts in Kandahar. Since the summer of 2010, ISAF and Afghan conventional forces have moved into the districts of Arghandab, Dand, Zhari, and Panjwai in an effort to deny the Taliban safe havens and relieve pressure on the city of Kandahar. Scores of new combat outposts now dot the region in an attempt to secure regions that have been under Taliban control for years.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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