The midwife program was closed for the weekly Muslim holy day, so no one was harmed in the office. But much of it was destroyed, and officials there said it would not reopen. A dozen mud-brick houses nearby were reduced to rubble, and hundreds of people were knocked down or sliced by shards of glass. Panic-stricken residents stumbled or were carried to the town hospital. Four people died, including the bomber, and 160 were treated for injuries.
“The ground shook and everyone started to run,” said Abdul Wali, 25, a hardware shop owner whose gaping glass storefront was still covered with a blanket Monday. “I don’t know who would do such a terrible thing, but we have no security at all. The police beat people, the Americans raid our villages and still we are not safe. We would be happy if they all left tomorrow.”
Even for people hardened by a decade of war, the massive truck bomb dealt a devastating psychological blow. More than a week after the attack, many shops were empty and not a single woman was to be seen outside the hospital. People in stores and offices were visibly nervous and seething with anger but unsure whether to direct it at the unknown culprits or the authorities, who had failed to protect them.
Taliban spokesmen claimed that they had carried out the bombing to avenge the execution of several Taliban prisoners in Kabul, but police officials had a different theory. They said Afghan security forces had been conducting intensive anti-insurgent raids in the area, and the Taliban wanted to prove that they could assault a high-security district that included police headquarters, the governor’s guesthouse and a joint U.S.-Afghan military command post, as well as the midwife school.
“The enemy stabbed us from behind,” said Gen. Abdul Razzak Qureshi, the deputy provincial police commander, whose office door was blown off its hinges. “We cleared 150 villages this month. We wanted to test our forces to see if they can defeat the Taliban once the American troops leave. We were very successful, but they did this cowardly attack to show they are still here.”
Wardak, a rural province where nomads camp in summer, has increasingly come under Taliban control in the past five years. The town of Maidan Shahr is strategically located on a major highway, and both the national police and the U.S. military have large bases less than a mile away. But most of the populace is from the same Pashtun ethnic group as the Taliban, and many farmers have turned to opium poppy cultivation, making them natural allies of the insurgents.