A pair of Taliban suicide bombers killed dozens of people, including police cadets and the first responders who arrived to administer aid after the initial attack, in a coordinated assault in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The attack is the third large scale assault by the Taliban in the capital since April.
The first suicide bomber targeted a convoy of buses carrying police cadets as they traveled in the Company area of Kabul City from neighboring Wardak province, according to TOLONews. The second suicide bomber then detonated his explosives as emergency personnel rendered aid to the victims of the first blast. At least 27 people are reported to have been killed in the twin bombings.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed credit for the deadly bombings and admitted that the second suicide bomber targeted the first responders.
“Police academy bus carrying 27 officers initially targeted by martyrdom seeker in Company area of the country’s capital Kabul,” Mujahid noted on his Twitter account. “As enemy troops gathered at site, another martyrdom seeker hit them with car bomb, killing & wounding dozens of more hirelings,” or Afghan security personnel.
The tactic of following up a suicide attack with a second bomber who targets first responders is common among jihadist groups. This tactic has been used by groups such as the Taliban, al Qaeda and its various branches, and the Islamic State.
The Taliban have conducted three mass-casualty suicide attacks in the Afghan capital since the spring. On April 19, a suicide assault team struck a security headquarters in the heart of the city, killing at least 64 people and wounding 347 more, according to reports. That attack prompted US Forces Afghanistan to issue an unusual press release asking for help in identifying suspected insurgents who were plotting attacks in Kabul and the surrounding provinces.
On June 20, a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a bus in the capital, and killed 23 people, including 14 Nepali security guards. The bus was carrying individuals who worked at the Canadian embassy.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, and said they were part of Operation Omari, the 2016 spring offensive named after Mullah Omar, its founder and first emir. When the Taliban announced the commencement of Omari, it said it would continue to use suicide bombers and would target both Afghan and foreign forces.
“[T]he Operation will employ large scale attacks on enemy positions across the country, martyrdom-seeking and tactical attacks against enemy strongholds, and assassination of enemy commanders in urban centers,” according to the Taliban statement. “The present Operation will also employ all means at our disposal to bog the enemy down in a war of attrition that lowers the morale of the foreign invaders and their internal armed militias. By employing such a multifaceted strategy it is hoped that the foreign enemy will be demoralized and forced to evict our nation.”
The Taliban has claimed that it has “thousands of fully armed martyrdom seekers” at its disposal to conduct attacks inside Afghanistan and has provided some information on the structure of its “martyrdom units.”
The Taliban has identified two key leaders of its “Suicide Groups.” Mullah Taj Mir Jawad has been described as the head of a “martyrdom-seekers battalion.” Jawad swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour, the group’s previous emir, in a video released in September 2015.
Qari Abdul Raouf Zakir, the “commander” of the Taliban’s “suicide groups,” also swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour in the same video as Jawad. Qari Zakir, who was designated as a terrorist by the State Department in November 2012, has long commanded the Haqqani Network’s suicide operations.
The Haqqani Network is an al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup that operates throughout Afghanistan and is based in Pakistan, where it is supported by Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, serves as one of two deputies to Mullah Habaitullah, the new emir of the Taliban, and as the head of the Taliban’s military.
The Taliban has also promoted suicide teams in its propaganda. The Muaskar ul Fida, one of several suicide squads operating in Afghanistan, previously swore allegiance to the Taliban’s last emir in November 2015.