Taliban suicide assault team kills 22 in central Afghanistan

A Taliban suicide assault team launched a complex attack on the governor’s compound in central Parwan province today, killing 22 people.

The Taliban assault began when a suicide bomber detonated a car at the gate of the governor’s compound in the provincial capital of Charikar. The blast created a breach that allowed five other heavily armed fighters to enter the compound. The Taliban fighters, armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades, and assault rifles, then fanned out and were engaged by Afghan security forces.

“Two suicide attackers detonated their explosives at the southern entrance, while the three others were gunned down by police,” Governor Abdul Basir Salangi said, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. Salangi gunned down the last Taliban fighters in the corridor outside of his office, the Guardian reported. The International Security Assistance Force stated that “as many as six other personal borne IEDs,” or suicide vests, “were detonated.”

The Taliban claimed credit for the attack, which killed 22 Afghans, including 16 government officials and six policemen, according to Reuters.

In a statement released on their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed that their suicide assault team “targeted other government buildings including the provincial police headquarter, intelligence department and other important buildings fighting with rockets, machine guns, hand grenades and explosive vests.”

The Taliban claimed that the attack “killed more than 100 most of them US-NATO … troops and advisers.” The Taliban routinely exaggerate or manufacture casualties in their reports. While several US military personnel were attending a meeting with the governor, none were reported to have been killed or wounded.

Parwan province, which is just north of Kabul, is considered by ISAF to be an area that is relatively secure. Attacks in the province are rare. Bagram Airbase and the Parwan Detention Facility are located in the central province.

The last major attack in Parwan took place more than one year ago, on May 19, 2010, when a Taliban assault team attempted to storm the US airbase, but was beaten back by US forces defending the base. An estimated 30 to 40 Taliban fighters carried out the assault. During the attack, 16 Taliban fighters were confirmed killed, including four suicide bombers; a US military contractor was also killed.

Bekkay Harrach, a German national who operated along the Afghan-Pakistani border, is thought to have been killed while leading the assault on Bagram. Harrach led a team of 20 fighters made up from the ranks of al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to a statement released by the IMU. The various terrorist groups carry out military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the aegis of the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army [for more information, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’]. The US military often calls this group, which also includes elements from the Haqqani Network and the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, the Kabul Attack Network.

The Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin maintains a strong presence in Parwan. On Feb. 16, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured Farid, HIG’s media emir, during a raid in the Charikar district. After his capture, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that Farid was a “major player” who is directly linked to Zabihullah Muhajid, the Taliban’s top spokesman for the Afghan north and east. Farid is thought to report directly to Muhajid. One intelligence official said that Farid “is as much Taliban as he is HIG” given how closely he works with both groups.

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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