Sui­cide bomber kills 14 in Hel­mand city

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KAN­DA­HAR:

A sui­cide car bomb­ing killed 14 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 10 Afghan po­lice of­fi­cers, as the Tale­ban launched a large-scale at­tack Monday on the cap­i­tal in south­ern Hel­mand prov­ince, the heart­land of the in­sur­gency. Since the be­gin­ning of this year’s fight­ing sea­son, the Tale­ban have ex­panded their foot­print across most of the prov­ince and have been at the gates of the city of Lashkar Gah, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, for weeks.

Ac­cord­ing to Haji Marjan, po­lice chief of Nad Ali district who has been de­ployed to the city, the ex­plo­sion hap­pened around 11.30 a.m., after the Tale­ban ear­lier tar­geted po­lice check­points across Lashkar Gah. Marjan said at least 10 po­lice of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing his brother, and four civil­ians died in the bomb­ing in the Mukhtar area of po­lice district 2. He warned the death toll was likely to rise as it was un­clear how many peo­ple re­main un­ac­counted for after the ex­plo­sion.

A doc­tor at the city’s in­ter­na­tional emer­gency hospi­tal said 14 bod­ies were brought to the clinic. Speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity as he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia, the physi­cian said 15 wounded were also brought in, in­clud­ing 14 vic­tims of the car bomb­ing and one per­son who suf­fered gun­shot wounds. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the city ap­peared to have been cut as it wasn’t pos­si­ble to reach of­fi­cials or res­i­dents for com­ments. In the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kabul, Sediq Sediqqi, the In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman, con­firmed the at­tack but ex­pressed con­fi­dence se­cu­rity forces “will soon push them (Tale­ban) back.”

Hu­man shields

He said se­cu­rity forces had re­sponded quickly but gun bat­tles were con­tin­u­ing, with at least seven in­sur­gents killed and two ve­hi­cles packed with ex­plo­sives de­stroyed. “We have enough forces in Lashkar Gah, plus sup­port­ive and com­mando units to re­spond to the Tale­ban’s at­tack,” Sediqqi told re­porters. Hel­mand is strate­gi­cally im­por­tant for the Tale­ban as it’s the main source of the coun­try’s opium out­put, worth an es­ti­mated $4 bil­lion a year, much of which funds the in­sur­gency. Pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials have said the Tale­ban now con­trol 85 per­cent of the prov­ince, while only a year ago, the govern­ment con­trolled 80 per­cent.

Else­where, Afghan forces in the north­ern city of Kun­duz city and Farah, a city in the west, were also bat­tling Tale­ban at­tacks. Progress was slow as the in­sur­gents were us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields and their homes for cover, Sediqqi said. In­sur­gents at­tacked Kun­duz, the cap­i­tal of the prov­ince of the same name, a week ago, a year after they over­ran it and held it for a few days, then bat­tled Afghan and US forces for three weeks un­til they were driven out.

The US mil­i­tary has pro­vided back­ing for the Afghan forces but the op­er­a­tions are tak­ing care to avoid id civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, said US mil­i­tary spokesman in Afghanistan, Brig Gen Charles Cleve­land. “Since Oct 7, US forces have con­ducted 21 air-to-ground en­gage­ments to de­fend friendly forces,” he said, without men­tion­ing airstrikes. —AP

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