The Taliban killed 21 Afghan civilians and wounded more than 50 in a double suicide attack near one of NATO’s largest military bases in the country. Kandahar’s chief of place blamed “the agents of Punjab,” or the Taliban, for the attack.
The first suicide bomber detonated a motorcycle packed with explosives at a bazaar near Kandahar International Airport, according to Pajhwok Afghan News.
The second suicide bomber, who also used a motorcycle laden with explosives, detonated his bomb outside of an Afghan National Army headquarters in the same bazaar, the news agency reported. The second suicide bomber targeted Afghans who were conducting rescue operations for the first attack.
Kandahar’s Chief of Police, Brigadier General Abdul Raziq, who has been the target of several suicide attacks, blamed the attack on the Taliban.
“The agents of Punjab (a euphemism for Taliban) have once again spilled the blood of innocent civilians,” Raziq told Pajhwok. Raziq is referring to the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani military, which is known to support the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed credit for today’s “martyrdom attack,” or suicide attack, in a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, and identified the suicide bomber.
“A martyrdom-seeking Mujahid of the Islamic Emirate, Janan, on an explosive-packed motorcycle hit the said facility outside the airfield at about 10:00 a.m. local time killing countless foreign terrorists [NATO forces] and their cowardly local puppets [the Afghan government and security forces],” the Taliban statement said.
Today’s deadly suicide attack was likely executed by the Mullah Dadullah Front, a powerful wing of the Taliban in the south that has adopted al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology. The Mullah Dadullah Front is led by none other than 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.
Zakir and other Taliban leaders operate from the Pakistani border city of Chaman in Baluchistan, as the location shields them from US and NATO operations. The Taliban maintain a command and control center in Chaman, but the Pakistani military and intelligence services have refused to move against the Taliban there.
The Mullah Dadullah Front operates largely in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan, and is considered the most effective and dangerous Taliban group in the region. The group has been active in attempting to sabotage negotiations between the Afghan government and lower-level Taliban leaders and fighters in the south.
The Taliban subgroup has executed numerous complex attacks, suicide assaults, and assassinations in the region. The Mullah Dadullah Front has expanded its operations from the south, and assassinated a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council in Kabul in May.
Zakir is also responsible for a purge of Taliban leaders who have conducted negotiations with the Afghan government, including Mohammad Ismail, the former Deputy Military Council Chairman for the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
Afghan and Coalition special operations forces killed Zakir’s brother, Mullah Abdul Salam Zakir, during a raid in the Kajaki district in Helmand on June 1, according to Afghan officials. The International Security Assistance Force has not confirmed Salam’s death. Salam is a key Taliban commander in Helmand and directs operations in the three northern districts of Musa Qala, Kajaki, and Baghran, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. He is considered to be an effective military leader and has strong backing from the Quetta Shura military council because of his brother’s position.
In December 2010, Coalition and Afghan special operations troops captured a senior Mullah Dadullah Front financier and weapons facilitator.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.