The Taliban have claimed credit for a suicide attack today at the entrance to a hotel in Kabul that killed two security guards.
The suicide bomber detonated his vest at the Safi Landmark hotel, which also includes a shopping center. Two other security guards were wounded in the blast.
Witnesses told TOLOnews that gunfire was heard before the explosion, but it is unclear if the shooting was initiated by the suicide bomber or the security guards. Taliban suicide bombers often attempt to shoot their way past security to enter the targeted destination.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, according to Reuters.
Today’s attack is the first suicide strike in Kabul since Jan. 28, when a suicide bomber opened fire inside a market before detonating a hand grenade and his suicide vest, killing eight people, including six members of a family.
The Taliban target hotels and other locations in Kabul where foreigners congregate. One of the earliest such attacks in Kabul took place in January 2008, when a suicide assault team attacked the Serena Hotel, killing seven people.
Within the past week, the Taliban have carried out two other major suicide attacks in Afghanistan. Yesterday, a suicide assault team killed 16 policemen and three civilians in an attack on the provincial police headquarters in Kandahar. And on Feb. 10, a suicide bomber killed seven people, including the district governor of Chardara, in Kunduz.
Background on the Kabul Attack Network
Today’s suicide attack was likely carried out by the Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official recently told The Long War Journal.
The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network. In the US military files recently released by WikiLeaks, Taj Mir Jawad is identified as a top Haqqani Network leader.
The attacks inside Kabul were directed by Talib Jan, a Taliban commander who has been imprisoned in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison for the past three years.
“From inside the Pul-e-Charkhi prison he was appointing people and giving them targets and instructions: do this, and do that,” Lutfullah Mashal, a National Directorate of Security spokesman said on Feb. 9, according to The New York Times. “Most of the terrorist and suicide attacks in Kabul were planned from inside this prison by this man.”
ISAF and Afghan forces have been targeting the Kabul Attack Network since the spring of 2010 in an attempt to prevent high-profile attacks in the capital. The Taliban are seeking to create the appearance of instability and shut down the operations of foreign companies operating in the capital, a US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. The attacks also allow the Taliban to show they can reach into the core of Afghanistan despite ongoing security operations in the Taliban heartlands of the south.
Counting today’s bombing, five Taliban suicide attacks have been carried out in Kabul since operations against the Kabul Attack Network intensified last year. On July 18, 2010, a suicide bomber killed four civilians at a medical clinic; on Aug. 10, a suicide assault team killed two security guards outside a guest house used by foreigners; and on Dec. 19, suicide bombers killed five soldiers outside a recruiting facility.
Last year’s suicide attacks were far less deadly than attacks in previous years, however, which included the January 2008 suicide assault on the Serena hotel, the February 2009 assault on Afghan ministries, and the July 2008 and October 2009 suicide attacks against the Indian embassy.
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