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Suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan

November 23, 2014

Summary: a suicide attack kills dozens at a sporting event on eastern Afghanistan.  Taliban most likely to blame but certainty is unlikely to come

Another black day for Afghanistan.  This has come in from many media sources today – a suicide bomb attack on a sporting event in Afghanistan with dozens killed:

BBC News, 23 November 2014: A suicide bomber has killed at least 45 people at a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.  A spokesman for the governor of Paktika province told the BBC that the attacker had detonated the bomb amid a crowd of people gathering for a game.  About 60 people were also wounded in the bombing in Yahyakhail district.  It came after Afghan MPs approved security deals allowing Nato and US soldiers to remain after the withdrawal of most foreign troops next month.  The total number of soldiers in the new Nato force will be about 12,000. Their mission has been defined as training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

RFE/RL: Davood Tappan, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in the region, said there were many police officers and other officials among the spectators.  There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest assaults in Afghanistan so far this year.  The Taliban and other militants have launched waves of suicide attacks and assassinations this year, as foreign forces continue to withdraw after 13 years of war.

Attacking sporting events is rare but it does happen.  A key question will be whether the Taliban actually claim this one.  It could be linked to the government signing of the security agreement to allow US and international forces to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.  As RFE/RL observes, the attack has not yet been admitted by Taliban officials and there is nothing on their website.  I tend to think they will not do so.  They have been regularly launching and claiming suicide attacks across the country – every month it seems.  But they do have a tendency to shy away from claiming attacks that have clearly killed too many civilians or where a military or government target cannot easily be pointed to.   Before their media skills had developed, they tended to claim every bomb that went off and then work out what had happened afterwards.  It made them look quick and effective.  But this caught them out on occasion, in attacks where high civilian casualties occured.  In the end, the lack of evidence gathering skills amongst the police and likely compromise of the crime scene will hamper investigations.  The perpetrators may not be identified.  We should remember that, while the Taliban look most likely to be behind it, other groups have the capability – HIG, Haqqani, AQ and Pakistani groups.

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