Taliban Ramp Up Fatal Attacks in #Afghanistan – NYTimes.com #NationBuilding #US #NATO

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban gunmen and a suicide bomber unleashed a wave of violence in the capital and beyond on Saturday, killing six Afghan soldiers aboard a Kabul bus, assassinating a Supreme Court official and shooting to death 12 men working to clear land mines in Helmand Province.

The attacks underscored what has been an exceptionally violent fall in Afghanistan, a departure from past years when violence has typically slowed during the cold months. Recent attacks have also heightened feelings of fear and uncertainty permeating the capital, as the new administration of President Ashraf Ghani struggles to appoint a cabinet.

In the last month, insurgents have claimed responsibility for attacks during a performance at an elite Kabul high school, on a British Embassy vehicle, on the compound of an aid group and against a prominent member of Parliament. Perhaps most unsettling, a suicide bomber infiltrated the Kabul police chief’s heavily fortified offices just over a month ago in an attempt to assassinate him. That attack, which killed another police official, was the first in the wave of assaults that have left Kabul feeling under siege.

Saturday’s attack on the soldiers, which occurred around 4 p.m. in southwest Kabul, only amplified that feeling. Six soldiers on the bus were killed and 10 were wounded by a suicide bomber. Details about civilian casualties were not immediately available. It was the second targeted attack against Afghan soldiers in Kabul within a week. Two days earlier, five soldiers were killed in a similar fashion.

Saturday’s violence began with the assassination of the secretariat of the Supreme Court, Atiqullah Rawoofi, as he rode to work from his home in Kabul’s northwestern suburbs. Mr. Rawoofi, a longtime member of the judiciary, was shot by two assailants on a motorbike and died on the way to the hospital, the police said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both Kabul attacks, as well as a bombing late Friday night that claimed the lives of two American soldiers near the Bagram Air Base, coalition officials said. The insurgents also said that their attacks would not be restricted to military and governmental targets.

“Efforts have been made to identify media outlets who are motivating people toward vulgarity to make them pay and face its consequences,” said a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said. “The Taliban will continue its attacks targeting foreign invaders and their Afghan slaves.”

The most deadly attack on Saturday occurred in Helmand Province around noon when a group of Afghans clearing mines were ambushed by Taliban gunmen. The men were working near the major military base in the province, where they planned to dispose of the mines, when the Taliban attacked, killing 12. After a group of Afghan soldiers responded to the attack, a gunfight erupted between the insurgents and the soldiers. Four Taliban fighters were killed and three were captured, officials said.

There have been similarly intense periods of violence in Kabul. After a January attack on a restaurant favored by Westerners left 21 people dead and gunmen stormed the Serena Hotel in March, killing at least nine people, a pall settled over Kabul. And while the recent attacks represent an escalation for the Taliban, the death tolls here have been less devastating than in the past.

What is different now, however, is that uncertainty has enveloped the government as Mr. Ghani struggles to select his cabinet. Disagreements over appointments with Abdullah Abdullah, Mr. Ghani’s chief executive, have left the top posts at the various ministries empty.

Much interest is focused on the Defense and Interior Ministries, which are responsible for the army and the police. Afghan forces have suffered a record number of casualties this year, and the Taliban have made advances beyond their usual rural strongholds, challenging district centers and establishing front lines in areas where they once relied strictly on guerrilla tactics.

Jawad Sukhanyar and Fazl Muzhary contributed reportin

via Taliban Ramp Up Fatal Attacks in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com.

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About angelajoya

Assistant Professor, Middle East Political Economy, at the University of Oregon. Currently writing on the Egyptian revolution and the Syrian crisis.
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