Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) has claimed credit for a suicide attack in Kabul today that targeted foreigners and was executed by a female. At least 12 people, mostly foreign workers, were killed in the attack. HIG said the attack was carried out in revenge for a movie clip that insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
The female suicide bomber rammed a car packed with more than 400 pounds of explosives into a bus as it was transporting workers near Kabul International Airport, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. Eight foreign workers, including Russians and South Africans, and four Afghan civilians, were killed in the blast.
The attack was claimed by Engineer Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, a faction of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan which is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Zarghoon said the attack was carried out by a 22-year-old woman named Fatima, and that it was conducted to avenge a controversial film released on YouTube that depicts the life of the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light.
Today’s suicide attack in Kabul is the second in the capital in 10 days. On Sept. 8, a suicide bomber killed six children outside the gate of Camp Eggers, a major US and NATO military installation.
The Taliban have used females as suicide bombers in at least three other suicide attacks inside Afghanistan since June 2010. Across the border in Pakistan, female suicide bombers have been used at least three times since December 2010 [see LWJ report, Female suicide bomber strikes in Peshawar, for the list of attacks].
The Taliban are known have opened camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border that are used to train female bombers, as described by two young girls who were trained to carry out suicide attacks but escaped to tell their stories.
Qari Zia Rahman has established training camps for female suicide bombers in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Qari Zia, who the US military has described as a “dual hatted” al Qaeda and Taliban leader, operates in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan and in the tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand in Pakistan. Qari Zia is closely allied with Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban’s leader in Bajaur. He also was close to slain al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations.
Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin has an extensive network throughout Afghanistan, and coordinates operations in the capital with the so-called Kabul Attack Network, which is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Zabul, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The Kabul Attack Network is led by Dawood (or Daud) and Taj Mir Jawad, military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Dawood is the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kabul, while Taj Mir Jawad is a top commander in the Haqqani Network. In the US military files that were released by WikiLeaks, Taj Mir Jawad is identified as a key Haqqani Network leader.
Background on Hekmatyar and HIG
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan communist forces. But Hekmatyar’s brutal battlefield tactics and wanton destruction of Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan Communist regime in the early 1990s led to the demise of his popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.
HIG forces have conducted attacks in northern and northeastern Afghanistan, and have bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan.
Hekmatyar’s forces, along with the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura, are the top three insurgent groups in Afghanistan. All have close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia.
In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to al Qaeda’s top leader, Osama bin Laden. “We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” he said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.
“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”
Despite Hekmatyar’s pledge to al Qaeda, senior US officials and military officers have repeatedly stated they believe that he can be weaned from the insurgency and brought into the Afghan government. Hekmatyar made offers to end the insurgency in 2009 and 2010, but the terms — that NATO withdraw its forces, the suspension of the Afghan constitution, and the installation of an Islamic government — generally mirrored those of the Taliban.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.