Suicide Attack at Afghan Market Raises Two-Day Toll to About 140

By Allauddin Khan and Noor Khan
Associated Press
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb. 18 -- A suicide car bomber killed 38 Afghans at a crowded market Monday, pushing the death toll from two days of bombings to about 140.

The marketplace blast, which targeted a Canadian army convoy, came a day after the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led invasion defeated the Taliban rulers in late 2001. The toll from Sunday's bombing, in a crowd watching dogfights, rose to more than 100.

The back-to-back blasts in the southern province of Kandahar could be a sign that insurgents are now willing to risk high civilian casualties while attacking security forces. Although their attacks occasionally have killed dozens, religious extremists in Afghanistan have generally avoided targeting civilians, unlike insurgents in Iraq's war.

"The attacks show that the enemies of Afghanistan are changing their tactics. Now they are not thinking about civilians at all," said Nasrullah Stanikzai, a professor of political science at Kabul University.

"They wanted to cause such big casualties in these attacks to weaken the morale of the government and the international community, to show the world the Afghan government is too weak to prevent them," he said.

The Taliban denied it carried out Sunday's attack, but immediately asserted responsibility for the market bombing in the town of Spin Boldak about 100 yards from the border with Pakistan.

There are fears that Afghanistan could experience more violence this year than in 2007, when a record 6,500 people -- most of them militant fighters -- were killed. The United States, with a record 28,000 troops in the country, is sending 3,200 more Marines in April.

Hours before the marketplace bombing, Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid raised the toll from Sunday's attack from about 80 to more than 100, saying some of the dozens of wounded had died.

Khalid said 38 people died in Monday's bombing and 28 were wounded. Three Canadian soldiers also were injured, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said.

Khalid said Canadian troops had failed to heed government warnings to stay away from the border with Pakistan.

"We informed the Canadian forces to avoid patrolling the border areas because our intelligence units had information that suicide attackers were in the areas and wanted to target Canadian or government forces," he said. "Despite informing the Canadians, they went to those areas anyway."

A spokesman for the Canadian military could not be reached, and a NATO spokesman said he had no details on the matter.

Although the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was closed Monday because of national elections in Pakistan, some of the wounded were taken to a hospital in Chaman, Pakistan, just across the border.

One of them, Abdul Hakim, lay in a hospital bed, his clothes caked with dust and splattered with blood.

"A white Toyota Corolla car rammed the second vehicle in the convoy as it passed through the bazaar," said Hakim, who saw the attack from his grocery store. "Then there was a huge explosion. It was dust. I do not know what happened to me."

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