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Bombings Near Afghanistan's Parliament Kill Dozens on Day of Assaults

A double bombing by the Taliban near the Afghan Parliament office compound in Kabul on Tuesday killed dozens of people during the early-evening rush hour, officials said.

The assault in the Afghan capital was the deadliest of several high-profile attacks on Tuesday, including an explosion at a government guesthouse in the southern province of Kandahar that wounded the provincial governor and the visiting ambassador of the United Arab Emirates.

Wahidullah Majrooh, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry, said 80 injured people and 30 bodies were taken to Kabul hospitals. Many officials feared that the number of casualties would rise.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the Parliament bombings.

One witness who was inside the compound said the attack started when a suicide bomber detonated explosives nearby. Then, as security forces gathered in the area a few minutes later, a car bomb detonated on the busy road that passes in front of the compound, the witness said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

An Afghan lawmaker, Kamal Safi, said meetings were underway in the compound when the attack took place, including one about the national budget.

"The explosions took place exactly at the time when government employees were going home, so it was a rush hour," Mr. Safi said. "More than a thousand people are working there, so I know the number of casualties are very high."

An officer named Mirwais who was among those providing security for the Parliament building said most of the casualties came from a public bus that was passing by the compound when the car bomb exploded.

"It was 4 p.m., and the workers were leaving – they either had private cars or were walking out to the main road for public transport," Mr. Mirwais said. "The second attack happened on the main road by the gate, and that caused a lot of casualties."

Violent attacks in Afghanistan have not subsided this year despite the harsh winter, with Taliban assaults reported on a daily basis across several provinces in the north and the south.

The deteriorating situation in the south, in particular, prompted the dispatch of about 200 NATO military advisers to Farah Province. And in Helmand Province, where American and British troops struggled for years to loosen the Taliban's grip at the height of the war, 300 United States Marines will return to help hold the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, against the insurgents.

The attacks in Kabul came hours after a Taliban bomber targeted a meeting of militia commanders in Lashkar Gah, killing seven to 11 people, according to various Afghan officials.

The target of that attack revealed the chaotic reality of the province that has been slipping from the hands of the Afghan government: The bombing hit the house of Hajji Khudaidad, a Taliban commander who had recently switched sides to lead a clandestine government force, essentially a duplicate Taliban, to infiltrate insurgency lines, Afghan officials said.

Col. Gulai Khan, the security chief of the province, said a meeting was underway at Mr. Khudaidad's house in the city's Second Precinct when the attack happened.

"The suicide bomber parked his vehicle laden with explosive nearby the house and walked to the house, where he shot the watchman who was on duty, and later he blew up his explosives inside," Colonel Khan said. He said that seven people were killed and three were wounded, and that a bomb squad was trying to clear the vehicle. Other accounts suggested the attacker might have thrown grenades inside and managed to flee before he was tracked down by the police.

Abdul Karim Attal, head of the Helmand provincial council, however, put the number of dead at 11. Among the wounded, officials said, were Mr. Khudaidad and Mullah Ibrahim, a senior commander of a Taliban breakaway faction that is believed to have close ties with the government.

Many officials in Helmand said the effort to create the militia was being led by Abdul Jabar Qahraman, President Ashraf Ghani's special envoy to the province, who used similar militia tactics in the 1980s on behalf of the collapsing communist government at the time.

Mr. Qahraman, in an interview, admitted that he was behind creating such a "secret force" but denied that the group targeted today was part of it.

It amounts to a desperate attempt to break some of the Taliban's momentum – the insurgents largely control six districts of the province, the government controls two, and another six are contested, according to Bashir Ahmad Shakir, the head of the security committee at the Helmand provincial council.

Details about the attack at the governor's guesthouse in Kandahar remained scant. Officials said the governor, Humayoon Azizi, was meeting with the visiting ambassador of United Arab Emirates for an evening reception when explosions went off.

Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar Province, said bombs had been placed in couches in the governor's house. "Eleven people have been killed and around 12 have been injured, including the governor and the U.A.E. ambassador, but their conditions are not life-threatening," General Raziq said. "The bodies of the dead are badly burned and beyond recognition."

[Source: By Mujib Mashal and Taimoor Shah, The New York Times, Kabul, 10Jan17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 11Jan17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.