The Taliban claimed credit for a suicide assault today in the northern province of Panjshir. A four-man team attacked the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Rakha district. There are two differing accounts. The Associated Press reported that the Taliban team failed to breach the compound:
Militants assaulted the gate of an American base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, striking before dawn with rocket-propelled grenades and a vehicle packed with explosives.
The attackers failed to breach the gate of the base in Panjshir province’s Rakha district, though they did hit a security tower with a rocket-propelled grenade, said provincial Police Chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh.
Three of the men attacked on foot, shooting, while a fourth detonated the explosives-laden vehicle outside the gate, Jangalbagh said. All four of the attackers were killed and two security guards were wounded, he said. He did not provide nationalities for the security guards.
But Pajwhok Afghan News claimed that one of the attackers breached the gate and entered the PRT before being killed. The news agency also said one civilian was killed:
At least one civilian was killed and four others, including a foreigner, were injured in a predawn suicide bombing in central Panjsher province, an official said on Saturday.
The explosion occurred at the gate of the US Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) compound in Rokha district at 5:15am, Deputy Provincial Police Chief Brig. Gen. Ahmad Wali Saboori told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Four suicide bombers stormed the PRT office, Saboori said, adding that the first attacker blew himself up at the entrance, allowing three others to engage with the PRT guards. Two of the assailants were killed in the ensuing firefight, he explained, saying a third managed to gain entry to the office, but was soon shot dead by the guards.
Today’s attack is a propaganda coup for the Taliban as the terror group is now able to demonstrate to Afghans that its reach extends to every corner of the country. Panjshir province is the most secure in Afghanistan; attacks there are a rarity. The Taliban haven’t conducted a single suicide attack in Panjshir since the war began in 2001. The province is the home of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famed Northern Alliance commander who was assassinated in a suicide attack in Takhar province just two days prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Under Massoud’s leadership the Panjshir Valley held out against both the Soviets and the Taliban.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.