Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kabul attack and its aftermath

On Sunday, April 27 armed attackers fired machine guns and grenade launchers at a military parade to mark Mujahedin Victory Day - the 16th anniversary of the mujaheddin victory over the Soviet-supported government in Kabul. Der Spiegel has more:

As shots rang out, hundreds of police and army, who had formed an honor guard, fled in chaos. The president, cabinet ministers and senior diplomats, including the US and UK ambassadors, were bundled away by security forces. Three people, including a lawmaker who was around 30 meters from the president, were killed.
Despite a wide security cordon, at least three Taliban fighters managed to hide in a building overlooking the parade ground and open fire at the end of a gun salute. Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak said that the three attackers were then killed by security forces after a gunbattle, the Associated Press reports.

Afghanistan analysts said the attack was meant to undermine the public's faith in their government's ability to protect them. Afghan parliamentarian Ramazan Bashardost told Reuters: "There is no security force in Afghanistan that people can trust. If you pay attention to yesterday's incident, the security forces fled the area before the ordinary people did." ... (link)
The Times has more on the aftermath:
Hundreds held after presidential assassination attempt in Afghanistan

KABUL, April 28 (Times) - ... According to senior security sources in Kabul, the Afghan police and intelligence service detained some 200 guests at a cheap hotel in Kabul popular among travelling salesman. Among them were the six assailants, who launched their machine gun and grenade attack ...

It emerged yesterday that one grenade exploded only 20 metres away from the VIP viewing stand ...

Eyewitnesses reported that the attackers opened fire from the third floor of the hotel, while other guests fled to the basement for cover. All the guests are being questioned by the authorities and most are expected to be released.
Yesterday, Afghan soldiers sealed off parts of the capital while plain clothes intelligence officers conducted searches, suggesting that some of the gang might still be at large. Three of the men were killed by security forces, one wounded and three captured. The three dead have been identified. All are Afghan nationals from different provinces of the country.

So far two militant groups have claimed responsibility for the attack, the Taleban and the Hezbi-Islami group headed by the former mujahideen leader Gulbudin Hekmatyar ... (link)
The New York Times outlines the beginnings of the investigation, though they couldn't resist framing it as an Al-Qaeda operation despite American officials rejecting the idea:
Afghans See Link to Qaeda in Plot to Shoot Karzai

KABUL, May 1 (NYT) - The attempt to kill President Hamid Karzai on Sunday was the work of militants who had infiltrated Afghanistan’s security forces and had ties to groups linked to Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the Afghan intelligence chief said Wednesday.

The claims emerged after a day of heightened alarm in which Afghan security forces killed and captured a number of suspects involved in Sunday’s assassination attempt, raiding three safe houses in Kabul, the capital. An eight-hour siege with one cell left seven people dead, including a child and three security officials.

One of those killed was a militant named Homayoun, who assisted in the attack on President Karzai as well as in the bombing in January of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, killing seven people, Amrullah Saleh, the intelligence chief, said at a news conference.

Afghan intelligence officials say they have linked Homayoun through an intermediary to Jalaluddin Haqqani, a mujahedeen commander who is based in Pakistan’s tribal areas and has long had ties to Al Qaeda. ...

American counterterrorism officials in Washington, however, said it was not yet clear what role, if any, Al Qaeda might have played in the attack against President Karzai on Sunday, even while acknowledging Mr. Haqqani’s past links to the group. ...

The unraveling of the plot here, the officials said, came after the Interior Ministry arrested some of its own men, who had been under investigation since the Serena Hotel bombing.

One of them confessed to involvement in the attack on a military parade on Sunday ...

Members of the police and a high-ranking officer of the Defense Ministry are also accused of helping the group, according to a member of the intelligence service ...

Within an hour of the confessions, the security forces had narrowed their search to a single house in the Kabul neighborhood of Guzargah and surrounded it on Wednesday, Mr. Saleh said.

When security officials tried to enter, they came under fire from gunmen and a woman barricaded in the basement. Three intelligence officials were killed in the ensuing battle. The security forces finally set off explosives, which killed all those inside — two men, a woman and a child — Mr. Saleh said.

In addition to the militant Homayoun, the two other adults killed in the house were a married couple and were not Afghan, Mr. Saleh said. ...

Six others suspects were arrested in a village on the eastern edge of the capital, he said, adding that another raid in a suburb of eastern Kabul was under way. ... (link)
The Quqnoos news site identifies Arzan Qimant and Tarakhil as the locations of the suburban raids.

Meanwhile, Reuters says that the urban siege ended with the militants blowing themselves up:
Taliban militants kill themselves in Afghan siege

KABUL, April 30 (Reuters) - Five Taliban militants blew themselves up in a house in the Afghan capital Kabul after 10 hours of clashes with besieging Afghan security forces on Wednesday, an Interior Ministry official said.

While the Taliban have launched sporadic suicide attacks in Kabul, the militants have not before been detected in any numbers inside the city ...

One of the men who died in Wednesday's siege had taken part in the parade attack, a Taliban spokesman said. One other militant, a woman and her daughter were also killed during a raid on the house, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted the spokesman as saying. ... (link)
From AP:
KABUL, April 30 (AP) - Afghan security forces raided the Kabul hide-out of militants with suspected links to a weekend attack on President Hamid Karzai, sparking a clash Wednesday that left at least seven people dead, officials said.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the two sides traded rocket-propelled grenade and automatic gunfire for several hours before the clash ended at midmorning. ...

The chief of the intelligence service, Amrullah Saleh, told Parliament on Tuesday that his agency knew about the plot to kill the president over the weekend but failed to locate the assailants in time. ... (link)

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