Suicide Blast Kills at Least 7 People in Afghanistan

Afghan police officers in civilian clothes inspect the site of the bombing in Nad-e Ali, Helmand province, the latest of more than 100 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year.
Afghan police officers in civilian clothes inspect the site of the bombing in Nad-e Ali, Helmand province, the latest of more than 100 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year. (By Abdul Khaleq -- Associated Press)

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By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

KABUL, Sept. 17 -- At least seven people were killed Monday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vest outside a government building in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent regions in the country.

The attack was the latest in a string of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, where such attacks were rare until a few years ago. So far this year, there have been 103 suicide attacks, according to a new U.N. report, which said the bombings are harming "civilians' perceptions of the ability of the Afghan government to protect them."

Monday's attack apparently targeted the police chief of Nad-e Ali, a small town about 10 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, according to Haji Abdul Manaf, a government official in the nearby town of Gereshk.

The incident occurred about 1 p.m. when the bomber attempted to approach the chief outside Nad-e Ali's main government building, according to a regional police official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the attacker detonated his charge after being stopped by police guards at a checkpoint. Three police officers and four civilians were killed in the blast; the police chief and several others were injured.

Suicide bombings have plagued Iraq, where thousands of people have been killed in attacks on markets, mosques, buses, checkpoints, bridges and other public targets since the start of the war there. Many of the attackers are Sunni Muslims from the extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the victims are typically Shiites. Suicide bombings in Afghanistan appear to be rarely, if ever, sectarian.

According to the U.N. report released last week, Afghanistan recorded only two suicide attacks in 2003 and three in 2004. In 2005, the figured spiked to 17, and last year it ballooned to 123.

Some analysts have asserted that suicide attacks "are not 'consistent with Afghan culture' " and are the work of foreigners, the report noted.

However, it said, "the expansion of suicide assaults has compelled analysts to believe that while the practice may have begun as an imported tactic, the suicide mission has become an integral part of the Taliban's strategy."

The group is using Afghan bombers as well as bombers recruited from other countries, particularly Pakistan.

In a comprehensive analysis of attacks over the first six months of this year, the report found that 193 people, most of them civilians, had been killed in suicide attacks. Sixty-two of the fatalities were members of Afghan security forces, and 10 were from international military forces.

"Irrespective of the insurgent's intended targets, the victims of the suicide attacks have been largely civilian bystanders," the report said. "Taliban propaganda continues to communicate that the 'US' and the 'foreign invaders' are their primary target, but these claims are not supported by the data."

The report said that 25 percent of suicide attacks in 2006 targeted Afghan security forces, compared with 43 percent this year. The percentage of attacks on international targets has declined.

"This is likely to have occurred because Afghan security forces are considerably softer targets in that they are lightly armoured, easier to approach and are often more remotely deployed," the report said.

"From a military point of view, suicide attacks in Afghanistan are not terribly 'successful,' " the report concluded. "However, they may be important to sustaining the coherence of the groups employing the tactic, raising funds for their insurgent activities and generating recruits for both suicide and non-suicide operations."

Special correspondent Qudratullah Haidarzai contributed to this report.


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