A suicide bomber killed 30 Afghans in an attack at a funeral in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar today.
The suicide bomber attacked civilians at a funeral ceremony for a resident of the Door Baba district in Nangarhar, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. Among those in attendance were local government officials, including the district governor of Door Baba, and tribal leaders.
The suicide bomber had disguised himself as a mourner, but was identified by the brother of the district governor, who opened fire on the suicide bomber before he detonated, according to the BBC.
Afghan officials said that 30 people were killed, including the district governor’s nephew, and more than 50 were wounded, including the district governor and his brother.
Although the Taliban have not yet claimed credit for the attack, they have claimed other suicide attacks in Nangarhar in the past, including the Feb. 27, 2012 suicide assault on the main ISAF airbase in Jalalabad that killed nine people; the May 18, 2011 suicide bombing that killed 13 police recruits in Jalalabad; and the Feb. 11, 2011 suicide assault on a bank in Jalalabad.
Today’s suicide attack is the third in eastern Afghanistan in the past week. On Sept. 1, the Taliban claimed credit for the double suicide attack outside a joint US and Afghan base in Sayyiabad district in Wardak province. The attack killed 10 civilians and two policemen, and wounded scores of people, including US troops. And on Aug. 29, a suicide bomber killed five Afghan soldiers in an attack on a military convoy in the Pech district in Kunar.
Taliban leadership in eastern Afghanistan
The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, and Kunar, as well as in northern Afghanistan. Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah is thought to currently lead the Peshawar Shura. Aminullah, who is also known as Fazeel-a-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al Peshwari, replaced Abdul Latif Mansur sometime in early 2011.
Aminullah is closely tied to al Qaeda. According to the United Nations Sanctions Committee, which added Aminullah to its list in 2009, he runs the Ganj Madrassa, or religious school, which he has used to recruit and provide support for al Qaeda. Aminullah has also furnished suicide vests to al Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombers, and paid the families of the terror groups’ so-called martyrs.
Three of the Taliban’s four regional councils are now run by leaders who are closely linked to al Qaeda [for more information on the Taliban’s Quetta and regional shuras, see LWJ report, The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders].
A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis. The father was leader of the Hizb-i-Islami Khalis, and was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Coalition special operations forces targeted Hizb-i-Islami Khalis leaders in Nangarhar at least two times in 2011.
Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009. Prior to his detention, Muhajid served as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Nangarhar.
Mujahid was inexplicably released from Pakistani custody last year. On Feb. 8, 2011, Mujahid spoke at the funeral of Awal Gul, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was captured by US forces in 2002 and died at the facility of natural causes on Feb. 1, 2011. Gul was a Taliban commander in Nangarhar province who had allegedly been entrusted by Osama bin Laden with $100,000 to aid al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan in late 2001. [See LWJ report, Tora Bora Military Front commander speaks at funeral of former Gitmo detainee.]
Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber, where the Lashkar-e-Islam and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are active. The majority of NATO’s supplies pass through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.