Taliban suicide assault team strikes Kandahar police, kills 6

A heavily armed Taliban suicide assault team stormed an Afghan police compound in Kandahar City today, sparking a gun battle that resulted in the deaths of six security officials and four Taliban fighters.

The Taliban launched the attack by opening fire on the police compound with assault rifles and machineguns. After the area was cordoned, a Taliban truck bomb disguised as an ambulance pulled up outside the compound. A Taliban suicide bomber then detonated the truck to allow the three other members of the team to breach the compound.

Two of the suicide bombers then detonated their vests while the third member of the Taliban assault team exchanged gunfire with police. US attack helicopters and armored vehicles rushed to the scene to help the Afghan police repel the assault.

Four Afghan intelligence officers, a policeman, and a soldier, and four Taliban fighters were killed during the the battle.

In a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claim credit for the assault. The Taliban’s account of the attack matched press reports from Kandahar.

Today’s attack was similar to the Taliban’s Feb. 12 assault on the provincial police headquarters in Kandahar City. In that attack, a six-man-strong Taliban assault team opened fire on the headquarters from a wedding hall across the street, then maneuvered suicide bombers to attack the police. The attack killed 15 policemen, an intelligence official, and three civilians.

Radical Taliban wing linked to recent suicide assaults

Today’s attack, like previous complex suicide operations carried out by the Taliban in Kandahar this year, was likely carried out by the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or the Mullah Dadullah Front, a radical Taliban subgroup closely linked to al Qaeda. US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that this subgroup is suspected of having carried out the recent 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.

In addition to the Feb. 12 suicide assault on the provincial police headquarters, the Taliban subgroup also executed a suicide attack in Kandahar’s border city of Spin Boldak on Jan. 8. In that attack the group 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.


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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