The Taliban launched a deadly suicide attack at the governor’s compound in the northern province of Takhar today, killing the police chief for northern Afghanistan and the provincial chief of police, and wounding the governor of the province and ISAF’s northern commander.
The attack took place as top Afghan and Coalition leaders in the north were meeting at the governor’s compound in the city of Taloqan, the provincial capital of Takhar.
The suicide bomber killed General Dawood Dawood, the top commander for the Afghan National Police in the north; Mawlawi Shah Jahan, the chief of police for Takhar province; the governor’s secretary; and a security guard, according to TOLONews. Two German soldiers were also killed, and Major General Markus Kneip, Regional Commander North for the International Security Assistance Force, was wounded in the attack, The Associated Press reported. The governor of Takhar was also wounded.
Ten Afghans and an unknown number of Coalition soldiers were also reported to have been wounded in the attack. Many of those wounded are said to have suffered serious burns. The extent of General Kneip’s injuries have not been disclosed. ISAF has only confirmed that Kneip “was not killed in the blast,” an official told Reuters.
The Taliban claimed the attack in Takhar and said the purpose of the strike was to assassinate Afghan leaders who commanded operations in the north. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid made the claim to The Associated Press. In s statement release on its propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed the attack was carried out by a “resident of Takhar” named Mujahid Amad-ud-Din.
Over the past seven months, the Taliban have assassinated two other senior leaders in the Afghan north. In October 2010, a Taliban suicide bomber killed Kunduz Governor Muhammad Omar as he worshiped in a mosque in Takhar province. Omar had been vocal in his opposition to the Taliban, and had consistently warned of the spread of the Taliban and allied terror groups in the Afghan north. And in March, a suicide bomber killed General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhili, the provincial chief of police for Kunduz.
Today’s attack is the latest in the Taliban’s so-called Badar spring offensive. 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.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.