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Taliban suicide attack: Red Cross compound in Jalalabad

May 29, 2013

By Tim Foxley

Summary: another suicide assault today – this time against the Red Cross – what is going on? 

red cross logoToday there have been two multiple suicide attacks launched by the Taliban – this morning it was against the provincial governor’s compound n the province of Panjshir valley, seemingly with minimal loss and the death of all six attackers.  News just coming in now of an attack against the Red Cross compound in Jalalabad (presumably soon to be described by Taliban spokesmen as a base for CIA or a prison for special interrogation of Taliban prisoners).  Reportedy two attackers and one policeman killed.

A squad of suicide attackers stormed the unprotected compound of the International Committee of Red Cross in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday shortly after a separate group of bombers attacked in the heavily guarded northern Panjshir valley.

The International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shuns armed guards employed by many foreign organisations in Afghanistan, relying instead on goodwill generated by healthcare to the very neediest, and protecting prisoners including Taliban detainees.

But the attack, the largest in the restive east, comes a month after the killing of two Afghan Red Crescent workers, and amid rising insecurity.

In a worrying sign for humanitarian organisations working in Afghanistan it also followed just a few days after a complex attack on the headquarters of a UN-linked organisation that helps thousands of refugees.

The day began with violence when six suicide bombers attacked the home and offices of the governor of Panjshir province. A policeman was killed in the gun battle that followed, and it was a worrying show of insurgent reach because the valley is a natural fortress and its people fiercely anti-Taliban.

Hours later, more blasts rocked the ICRC compound in eastern Jalalabad. A bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance, killing the unarmed guard, and up to three other attackers rushed into the grounds.

All Afghan employees apart from the guard had gone home, officials said, and six foreign workers were evacuated by police, one with slight injuries. Three hours later the battle was over, but it was unclear who had ordered the attack or why.

The Taliban could not be reached for comment, but their relations with the ICRC have always been good.

Last Friday, the International Organisation of Migration was also hit.   This seems to suggest a shift in Taliban approach towards easier targets.  The apparent lack of casualties – other than the death of all attackers – also seems to imply some difficulties on the part of the Taliban – either planning, operating, reconnaissance or tactics.  The Taliban normally have good relations with the Red Cross.

The Taliban made an announcement regarding today’s Panjshir attack – they claim to have killed 50 and wounded 43:

Taliban flagPANJSHIR, May 29 – A recent report says the Islamic Emirate’s Mujahideen stormed the governor’s compound and the police headquarter in Afghanistan’s Panjshir valley on Wednesday at about 4:00 a.m. local time.   The martyrdom-seeking Mujahideen first pinned down 8 guards posted outside the Governor’s office and Police Headquarter, the two facilities situated close to each other.   The small unit of 6 brave Mujahideen after removing the guards and security barriers, with slogans of Allah-o-Akbar, then got into the facilities almost simultaneously and begin having the bloodiest fight with those inside the compounds of both facilities.

It took Mujahideen four and a half hours to kill as many as 38 puppet officials, policemen and soldiers within the police headquarter in addition to killing a further 12 of whom, 6 foreign advisers. At least 43 others were wounded in both buildings. More than 8 enemy’s vehicles got destroyed in the operation.   The martyr operation ended at 8:30 after the last Mujahid of the unit of the six including Zia-ud-Din, Ahmad, Ammar, Muhammad Afzal, Muhammad Yasin and Syed Kamil embraced martyrdom. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ) ‘Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.

It was the deadliest single-day attack of its kind in Panjshir province since the Operation Kalid bin Waleed began on Apr. 28, 2013, making May, the bloodiest month for the enemies.   The attack came on the 32nd day of the countrywide operation, part of the spring Jihadic offensives.

Simplistic thoughts – under the theme of “slightly desperate”, this could suggest a few issues the Taliban are facing:
  • The Taliban military wing is now in the ascendant – but some confusion/competition over leadership and strategy?  Website messages are mixed – claiming Turkish prisoner release proves they are humane, then blowing up the Red Cross?
  • Taliban getting concerned that Spring Offensives are not achieving much – running out of ideas and steam…?
  • Taliban concerned that morale, motivation and resolve is faltering
  • Taliban getting desperate for some usable media attention
  • Doesn’t bode well for realistic political dialogue anytime soon
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2013 9:32 pm

    All true, everything you’ve stated, but I still find the choice of the ICRC very odd. This one is definitely “still unfolding.”

  2. May 29, 2013 11:50 pm

    Yes, agreed – waiting to see what they say about it officially…

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