The Taliban have launched a pair of attacks, inducing a suicide assault, in another major Afghan city. Today the Taliban detonated a bomb in the center of Herat, the provincial capital, while a suicide assault team attacked the Provincial Reconstruction Team on the outskirts of the city.
The Taliban opened the attack with a large car bomb in a crowded area of the city. Shortly afterward a suicide assault team attacked the headquarters of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which is run by Italian troops. At least two suicide bombers detonated their vests while they attempted to breach the compound as another group of fighters took control of a multi-story building and fired into the base.
Afghan security forces said they have killed four Taliban fighters and are still fighting the others. The remaining Taliban fighters are said to have taken a family hostage.
Five people, including an Afghan soldier, have been reported killed so far and more than 30 people have been wounded in the pair of attacks.
A Taliban spokesman claimed credit for the Herat attacks. “Our mujahideen are working on the operation in Herat,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.
The Taliban have launched one other attack against an international base in Herat in the past eight months. On Oct. 23, 2010, a suicide assault team failed in its attempt to storm the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Both the October 2010 attack and today’s assault were likely executed by Taliban fighters under the command of Samihullah, who leads a group of fighters known as the Mujahideen of Herat. Samihullah is closely allied with al Qaeda and works with the Ansar Corps, the Iranian Qods Force sub-command that directs Iranian operations in Afghanistan. Samihullah is known to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters from Iran into Afghanistan.
Today’s attack is the latest in the Taliban’s so-called Badar spring offensive. In the last attack, on May 28, the Taliban killed the Afghan police’s top regional commander for the north and Takhar’s police chief along with two German soldiers and two Afghans, and wounded the governor of Takhar and NATO’s top general for Regional Command North. On May 22, a suicide assault team attacked a police headquarters in Khost, killing six people in a battle that lasted for several hours. On May 21, a Taliban suicide bomber killed six people in the cafeteria of a Kabul hospital used by Afghan forces. Other major Taliban attacks in the last two weeks include an ambush that killed 35 road workers and guards in Paktika; a suicide attack that killed 13 people in Nangarhar; an IED attack that killed eight US soldiers in Kandahar, and another IED attack that killed four ISAF troops in the south.
Background on the Taliban’s spring offensive
The Taliban are seeking to roll back Afghan and Coalition gains made in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar over the past year, as well as to reinforce the perception that Taliban forces can strike in all areas of Afghanistan. The Taliban are also trying to break the will of the Afghan security forces as well as intimidate local Afghans.
In their announcement of the Badar offensive, the Taliban said the primary targets would be “foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and (other) spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul Puppet Administration, both military and civilian, members of the cabinet, members of the parliament, Heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors.” The Afghan High Peace Council was also singled out.
The Taliban said Badar would focus on “military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country.” Their tactics would include “group and martyrdom seeking attacks,” or suicide attacks and assaults; “group offensives,” or massed assaults; “city attacks,” ambushes, and IED attacks.
The Taliban also said that “strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan.”
The Taliban maintain they have no shortage of suicide bombers to carry out attacks. In April, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers train at camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.
The Pakistani government refuses to strike the terror groups in North Waziristan despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, as well as requests by the US that action be taken against these groups. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, or the Haqqani Network, which is also based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly shelter groups that carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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