Taliban suicide assault team kills 42 at Jalalabad bank

A Taliban suicide assault team attacked a group of Afghan police waiting in line at the Kabul Bank in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, then stormed the bank and detonated their vests. In this latest attack targeting the Afghan police, 42 people were killed.

The suicide assault team, estimated at seven-men strong, dressed in Afghan border police uniforms, and armed with assault rifles and hand grenades, opened fire on a group of policemen and civilians today as they stood in line at the bank. Several of the fighters (the Taliban claimed three) entered the bank and opened fire, then detonated their vests.

More than 70 people, including 14 policemen, were wounded in the attack. Among those injured were the chief and deputy chief of police for Nangarhar province.

The Taliban timed the attack to inflict maximum casualties on police. The bank is known to disburse payments to police officials, and the attack took place on payday.

The Taliban claimed credit for today’s assault, saying their suicide assault team attacked “when the puppets were going to receive their monthly salary.” The Taliban released a statement claiming the attack on their English-language website, Voice of Jihad.

Today’s attack is the latest major suicide assault carried out by the Taliban. Yesterday, a suicide bomber killed nine people at a police checkpoint outside the home of the governor of Khost province; the governor is thought to have been the target. And on Feb. 12, a suicide assault team struck the provincial police headquarters in Kandahar City, killing 15 policemen and three civilians.

The Taliban have launched several other suicide attacks in the past few weeks, including the Jan. 28 assault at a supermarket in Kabul that killed eight Afghans; the Jan. 29 bombing that killed Kandahar’s Deputy Governor, Abdul Latif; the Feb. 7 attack at the Inland Customs Warehouse in Kandahar that killed a retired US Customs and Border Protection officer and wounded three American customs workers; the Feb. 10 strike that killed seven people, including the district governor of Chardara, in Kunduz; and the Feb. 14 attack at a hotel in Kabul that killed two security guards.

In response to the Coalition and Afghan offensive in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, the Taliban have mounted a nationwide campaign of violence and intimidation. Taliban fighters have been told 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,” according to a directive issued by Mullah Omar in June 2010.

Nangarhar a haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups

Sharing a border with the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber, Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The majority of NATO’s supplies pass through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.

In addition to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a dangerous terror group based in Pakistan and supported by that country’s military and intelligence services, maintain a strong presence in Nangarhar, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba cells has been detected in the districts of Achin, Bati Kowt, Behsud, Chaparhar, Dara Noor, Deh Bala, Jalalabad, Khogyani, Pachir wa Agam, Sherzad, and Shinwar, or 11 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

Other Taliban-like groups based in Pakistan also operate in Nangarhar. On Dec. 18, 2010, ISAF targeted the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Pakistani terror group based in the Khyber tribal agency, during a raid in Nangarhar. The Lashkar-e-Islam has established its own Taliban-like government in large areas of the Khyber tribal agency, including in Bara, Jamrud, and the Tirah Valley. The group provides recruits to battle US and Afghan forces across the border, and attacks NATO’s vital supply line moving through Khyber.

ISAF has targeted the terror cells in Nangarhar recently. On Jan. 8, a combined Coalition and Afghan special operations team targeted an “al Qaeda-associated Taliban leader” during a raid in the Chaparhar district in Nangarhar province, ISAF stated. One suspected Taliban fighter was detained during the operation.

The targeted Taliban commander is the shadow governor for the Pachir wa Agam district. The commander “facilitates fighters and suicide bombers to attack coalition forces and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Jalalabad, Behsud and Pachir wa Agam districts” and “was coordinating an attack on a provincial reconstruction team in the province.”

On Feb. 3, special operations teams captured “a high-level Taliban leader in Chaparhar” who served as a “financier, through an international drug smuggling network” and was “known to have facilitated the movement of foreign fighters through the district.”

Taliban leadership in the east

The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, and Kunar. Abdul Latif Mansur is thought to currently lead the Taliban’s Peshawar shura. Mansur formerly served as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Nangarhar.

The Peshawar Regional Military Shura was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his detention in Pakistan in February 2010.

A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009. Prior to his detention, Muhajid served as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Nangarhar.

Mujahid is now out of Pakistani custody. On Feb. 8, Mujahid spoke at the funeral of Awal Gul, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was captured by US forces in 2002 and died at the facility of natural causes on Feb. 1 of this year.

In early 2010, media reports had claimed that Kabir and Muhajid were in negotiations with the Afghan government, even though both were said to detained by the Pakistani authorities at the time. But Kabir released a statement on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s website, denouncing any talks. Further doubt was cast on peace talks with the Taliban after ISAF discovered that it was in discussions with an impostor rather than the real Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, one of Mullah Omar’s top two deputies who ran the Quetta Shura.

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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