Taliban suicide assault team kills 36 Afghans in western city

A Taliban suicide assault team fanned out across the western city of Zaranj today, killing 36 Afghans in several attacks before being gunned down by Afghan forces.

A suicide assault team consisting of 11 men armed with assault rifles and wearing suicide vests hit multiple targets in the city, including the governor’s compound, at 3:30 p.m. local time. Three of the Taliban fighters detonated their vests; two of them detonated outside of a hospital in the city, and another detonated at a bazaar, according to TOLONews.

“Security forces killed two of the suicide attackers last night and detained three others this morning. Three managed to detonate themselves while three others were gunned down,” Mujibullah Latifi, the deputy chief of police for Zaranj told AFP.

Four policemen were among the 36 Afghans killed during the assault, according to TOLONews.

Today’s attack occurred three days after a Taliban fighter disguised as an Afghan policeman gunned down 11 police officers in Delaram in Nimroz. Afghan security personnel returned fire and killed him.

The Taliban have conducted several suicide attacks and assaults in Nimroz and neighboring Farah province in western Afghanistan over the past three years. In May, a suicide assault team attacked the governor’s compound in Farah. Six policemen, a civilian, and four members of the suicide assault team were killed during the attack.

In April, a suicide bomber detonated a cart packed with explosives, killing a US Marine and wounding others in Zaranj. The Taliban then opened fire on the US and Afghan troops from nearby buildings.

In March, a large Taliban force ambushed an Afghan supply column in the Gulistan district of Farah province. Thirty Taliban fighters and seven security guards were killed during the clash.

In May 2010, a suicide assault team hit the government center and other sites in Zaranj. Suicide bombers fanned out and hit the governor’s compound, the justice department, and the courthouse. Three civilians and eight members of the assault team were killed.

And in November 2009, a suicide bomber driving a motorcycle detonated his explosives in a market in Farah City, killing 17 people and wounding 29.

Qods Force, al Qaeda operate in western Afghanistan

Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has backed the operations of al Qaeda and the Taliban in western Afghanistan, according to the International Security Assistance Force as well as the US government. The Qods Force has tasked the Ansar Corps, a subcommand, with aiding the Taliban and other terror groups in Afghanistan. Based in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, the Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq [see LWJ report, Iranian Qods Force commanders linked to Taliban: US Treasury, for more information on the Ansar Corps and Iran’s support for the Taliban].

ISAF targeted Iranian-supported Taliban commanders in at least 14 raids in the western provinces of Farah, Nimroz, Herat, and Ghor between June 2009 and February 2011, according to Coalition press releases compiled by The Long War Journal.

In early February 2011, ISAF inexplicably stopped reporting on raids against Iranian-supported Taliban and al Qaeda commanders. When The Long War Journal inquired about the sudden halt in reports on Qods Force-linked commanders in the Afghan west, ISAF claimed it does not discuss issues related to Iran.

“As policy, IJC [ISAF Joint Command] does not discuss Iran,” Lieutenant Commander Katie Kendrick, an ISAF Public Affairs Officer, told The Long War Journal in February 2011, despite the fact that ISAF had indeed mentioned the Qods Force in its press releases and well as in followup inquiries. Further inquiries to ISAF about the sudden change in policy on discussing Iran’s links to terror activities in Afghanistan have gone unanswered.

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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