Center for Strategic Communication


Afghan NDS officials showed the media weapons and nearly eight tons of explosives seized from an operation conducted on March 12 in eastern Kabul. The explosives were hidden in cement bags and wired for detonation in the truck seen in the background. Afghan forces killed five suspects during the operation, and captured two others, seen in the background with black hoods over their heads. Source: EPA.

Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces scored a major coup on March 12, breaking up a suspected Haqqani Network terror cell that was hours away from detonating a 7,800-kilogram truck bomb against an unspecified military installation in Kabul.

Elite NDS commandos conducted a night raid on March 12 against a suspected Haqqani safe house in the Al Walkhil village in Kabul’s 16th District, and killed five suspected militants and captured two others, according to TOLOnews. Among the weapons and ammunition seized by Afghan forces was a large flatbed truck filled with 7,800 kilograms of explosives consisting of potassium chloride, ammonium nitrate, and an unknown substance — a bomb powerful enough to have wrought destruction within a 1,500-meter radius (nearly one mile), according to NDS spokesman Shafiqullah Taheri.

Several previous high-profile terror attacks in Kabul that used potassium chloride as an explosive precursor have been attributed to the powerful Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda and Taliban affiliate based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency. Taheri was quick to blame the Haqqani Network and the Taliban’s Quetta Shura for facilitating this week’s failed terror plot, although he did not provide additional details to explain the connection.

The two suspects captured alive were in possession of forged Afghan national identity cards, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. What appears to be Afghan National Army (ANA) Commando uniforms [see photo above] were among the several RPK-machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, and ammunition seized during the raid. Maps and photographs of military installations in Kabul were also among the items seized during the raid.

Tuesday’s successful operation came two days after US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel departed Afghanistan following a round of precarious discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Taliban attacked the Afghan Defense Ministry with a suicide bomber on March 9 while Hagel was in Kabul, although he was not near the Afghan Ministry of Defense during the time of the blast. [See LWJ report, Taliban suicide bombers strike in Kabul, Khost.] The failed attack also comes nearly a week before the Nowruz (New Year) celebrations, a national holiday that marks the beginning of the new solar calendar. The Taliban have long been adamantly opposed to Nowruz celebrations, and even prohibited celebrating the holiday in areas under their control between 1996 and 2001.

Last year, the Taliban issued a statement warning Afghans against celebrating the holiday, which caused serious concerns for security in places like Mazar-e-Sharif, where the famous Nowruz Red Flower Celebration draws hundreds of thousands of revelers every year.

This week’s thwarted truck bomb attack bears hallmarks similar to those of another failed terror plot last April, when Afghan security forces interdicted a transport truck near eastern Kabul loaded with 10,000 kilograms (approximately 11 tons) of explosives, elaborately disguised under sacks stuffed with potatoes. [See LWJ report, Afghan intelligence seizes 11 tons of explosives, thwarts additional terror plots]

For previous coverage of NDS operations, see the following Long War Journal and Threat Matrix reports: