A Taliban team launched several attacks today, including a suicide assault that targeted a police headquarters, in the capital of Kandahar, the southern province that has been a major focus of a Coalition offensive in Afghanistan.
The largest attack took place in the heart of the capital, as a suicide assault team wearing explosive vests and armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades occupied a wedding hall across from the provincial police headquarters. The Taliban fighters opened fire on the headquarters, while a car bomb was detonated on the street. Two of the suicide bombers then attempted to storm the police building but detonated their vests on the street; a third suicide bomber was wounded by gunfire and was captured.
Fifteen policemen, an intelligence official, and three civilians were killed during the deadly attack.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, saying it was launched by six of their fighters.
“Taliban fighters have inflicted casualties on the police,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told Reuters.
The Taliban also conducted other small-scale attacks in the city, according to reports from Kandahar. On their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed to have ambushed police patrols and a checkpoint, “causing the puppets further deadly casualties.” The Taliban refer to Afghans who work for or cooperate with the government as “puppets.”
Today’s attacks are the latest by the Taliban in the southern province. On Feb. 7, a Taliban suicide bomber penetrated security at the Inland Customs Warehouse in Kandahar. A retired US Customs and Border Protection officer was killed and three American customs workers were wounded.
On Feb. 4, a Taliban suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Kandahar’s chief of police; the suicide bomber killed only himself. The attempt against the police chief was the second in four days.
On Jan. 29, a Taliban 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. Latif was killed in the attack; three bodyguards were also wounded.
US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or the Mullah Dadullah Front, a radical Taliban subgroup closely linked to al Qaeda, is suspected of having carried out the suicide attacks in Kandahar.
The 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 Taliban subgroup also 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.
Background on the situation 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.
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.
In an effort to curb Taliban influence, special operations raids have been 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.
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