This morning in Kabul, a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed vehicle blew up a two-car American military convoy, killing at least 15 people. Six Americans died in the attack along with nine Afghan civilians, including two children. The attack also injured 42 others, of whom 39 were Afghan civilians.
The attack took place during morning rush hour near the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, according to Dawn.
The International Security Assistance Force issued a press release which stated that “[t]wo International Security Assistance Force service members and four ISAF contracted civilians died following an improvised explosive device attack in Kabul, Afghanistan today.” Afghan and ISAF officials confirmed that the ISAF members killed in the attack were American.
Today’s attack, which damaged a number of residences and left some civilians so badly burnt they were unrecognizable, is the worst terror attack in Kabul since March, when a suicide bomber killed nine Afghans during a visit by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Pajhwok Afghan News reported that the powerful blast in a Kabul residential area destroyed dozens of houses and 30 vehicles, including two belonging to foreigners.
The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, has stated that the NDS thwarts a large number of attacks on the capital every week, however.
The attack was claimed by the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, whose spokesman Haroon Zarghoun told Reuters that the group had targeted American military advisers. “We planned this attack for over a week,” he said. He identified the suicide bomber as Qari Qudratullah from central Logar province, Pajhwok reported.
Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) is a breakaway faction of the Hizb-i-Islami, which has joined the Afghan government. HIG is a radical Islamist group that is aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2006 and is closely tied to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. In recent years, Hekmatyar has reached out to the Afghan government to conduct negotiations to end the fighting. [See LWJ report, Taliban, HIG infighting leads to split in Afghan insurgency in the North.]
Hizb-i-Islami, along with other terrorist groups, is known to have bases in the tribal regions of Pakistan and to support suicide bomber facilitation inside Afghanistan. On Sept. 18, 2012, a female HIG suicide bomber killed 12 people, mostly foreign workers, in an attack on a bus near Kabul International Airport. Like today’s attack, that attack was claimed by Engineer Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin faction of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Female suicide bomber from Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin strikes in Kabul.]
On Feb. 7, ISAF reported that its forces captured a senior Taliban leader who worked closely with the militant group Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) during an operation by Afghan and Coalition forces in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. The commander is believed to facilitate suicide operations and “manages the recruitment, training and movement of insurgents to conduct attacks.” He is also accused of using his “village leadership position to recruit suicide bombers and insider attack facilitators” from the local high school.
Today’s attack indicates that the Taliban are back to targeting ISAF soldiers. Since the April 28 start of the group’s spring offensive, 18 ISAF troops have been killed. Announcing this year’s offensive, the Taliban said the campaign would focus primarily on the “foreign invaders,” or Coalition forces operating under the command of the International Security Assistance Force, and stressed that suicide and insider attacks would be used. [See LWJ report, Taliban promise suicide assaults, ‘insider attacks’ in this year’s spring offensive.]