Latest insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan kills 21


McClatchy Newspapers

KABUL, Afghanistan — Seven suicide attackers killed at least 21 people in near-simultaneous assaults Thursday in a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan in the latest violent incident to shake President Hamid Karzai's government and its U.S.-led military allies.

The victims included 10 children and three women who died when an assailant crashed a vehicle into a hospital maternity ward and set off a cargo of explosives, officials said.

"The explosion was so powerful it rocked my house," Mohammad Daoud Zaheer, a retired district chief who lives a mile from the hospital, said in a telephone interview.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, which seemed certain to keep Karzai and his U.S.-led allies off kilter and public anxiety running high amid a rash of high-profile assassinations and guerrilla-style strikes coinciding with the start of a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops from southern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said that at least 38 people, including at least three police officers, were wounded in six hours of mayhem in Tarin Kot, the capital of Urozgan province, north of Kandahar.

The assailants targeted the governor's tightly guarded compound, where the provincial hospital is located, as well as the police headquarters and a private security firm. The security firm's owner, Matiullah Khan, a local power baron, escaped injury; his uncle, former Urozgan governor and Karzai aide Jan Mohammad Khan, was assassinated 10 days ago.

The provincial radio and television station was damaged by the vehicle bomb that hit the firm's compound, killing a reporter who also worked for the BBC World Service's Pashto-language service, officials said.

In calls to news agencies, a Taliban spokesman who claimed responsibility for the attacks expressed "regret" for the death of the radio reporter, Ahmad Omed Khpluwak.

Australian troops and helicopters from the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force eventually intervened to end the fighting, said Mohibullah, the director of the provincial police anti-crime bureau, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

An ISAF spokesman, Capt. Pietro D'Angelo, confirmed that "ISAF supported the Afghan-led operation in Tarin Kot" and that ISAF helicopters evacuated injury victims, but offered no further details.

Zaheer, the resident, said, "If the foreign troops hadn't responded, the fighting would have lasted until tomorrow morning."

The attacks erupted at 1 p.m., officials said. According to an Afghan Interior Ministry statement, seven attackers wearing suicide vests struck several locations in Tarin Kot, while a motorcycle carrying explosives was detonated by remote control a few hundred yards away from the police headquarters.

At least 21 people and the assailants died, the ministry said.

Khan Agha Miakhel, the provincial public health director, said that the assaults began when one of the attackers crashed a vehicle through the gate of the governor's compound, slammed it into a wall of the maternity ward and set off its load of explosives.

Zaheer quoted residents living nearby as saying that two men firing weapons then stormed the compound, engaging in fierce exchanges with police for hours.

Around the same time, he said, a similar attack unfolded at the compound of the Highway Battalion, a private security firm owned by Matiullah Khan, the nephew of slain warlord Jan Mohammad Khan, the Karzai lieutenant killed in a July 17 assault on his home in Kabul, the capital.

Matiullah Khan also was close to Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of President Karzai and the head of the provincial council of neighboring Kandahar province. A powerful figure who helped U.S. forces maintain security, he was assassinated on July 12 by his security chief.

The Taliban took responsibility for the murders of Karzai and Jan Mohammad Khan, although its involvement in Karzai's death remains unconfirmed.

Matiullah Khan has contracts to protect trucks ferrying supplies to ISAF forces in Tarin Kot. He also reportedly pays protection money to the Taliban, and allegedly was involved with Ahmad Wali Karzai in drug trafficking.

The Interior Ministry said that Afghan police eventually killed the five gunmen.

ISAF condemned what it called "a despicable, complete disregard for human life."

Separately, a statement from President Karzai's office said that French troops on Wednesday in eastern Kapisa province fired on a car they believed was driven by a suicide bomber, killing a pregnant woman, a child and a man.

Such incidents have stoked public anger at international forces and soured relations between President Karzai and his foreign allies in the decade-old war against the Taliban and allied insurgent groups.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


Kandahar mayor's killing is another blow to U.S. plans

U.S. drawdown, internal crises fuel fears for Afghanistan

Problems dog U.S.-led efforts to boost Afghan financial system

For more international news visit McClatchy's World page.

McClatchy Newspapers 2011

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Germany plans to tighten EU migration rules

    The German government says it's proposing measures to tighten migration regulations for citizens from elsewhere in the European Union amid accusations of welfare abuse by poor immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling, left, and Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, both gesture whilst they take part in the second television debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday Aug. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, David Cheskin) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES  NO ARCHIVE

    Scottish businesses: no case for independence

    A group of 130 business leaders in Scotland have signed an open letter arguing that the case for independence from Britain has not been made.

  • Experts find 283 DNA samples from MH17 site

    Experts working to identify the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 say they have gathered DNA samples from 283 different people and have positively identified 173 of them.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category