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Vulnerable Kandahar Reels After Blasts

Rubble in the aftermath of suicide attack in Kandahar

Rubble in the aftermath of suicide attack in Kandahar

(RFE/RL) -- The beleaguered southern Afghan city of Kandahar is in mourning after a series of bombings that killed at least 30 and wounded 50 more.

Among the dead in the March 13 blasts were 10 women and children who were attending a wedding celebration in a hall next to a targeted police station.

In the wake of the bombings, Kandahar's Governor, Turyalai Wesa, demanded more security assistance from Kabul. Speaking to journalists on March 14, Wesa asked for more troops to protect Kandahar and urged grater coordination between NATO and Afghan forces to improve security.

Analysts say the bombings highlighted Kandahar's weak security as NATO and Afghan forces build up their numbers before confronting the insurgents in a fresh offensive. The new campaign is expected to build on operation Moshtarak -- NATO's largest offensive to date that reclaimed Marja -- a major insurgent stronghold in neighboring Helmand Province.

In a statement released on March 14, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the bombings show the insurgents are still able to operate despite the buildup of international troops in the south in preparation for a push into Kandahar province.

Kandahar is the second-largest city in the country. It is the birthplace of the Taliban movement in mid-1990s and a major battleground for their insurgency during the past few years.

Wesa said that attacks targeted a newly fortified prison and police headquarters and confirmed that at least six police officers were among the dead.

"According to intelligence reports, 15 suicide bombers had penetrated into the city. Seven or eight of them were able to detonate their devices. This is a very tragic incident," Wesa said.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's younger half brother and a member of the Kandahar provincial council, said two of the explosions occurred near his home, which was not damaged. He told The Associated Press that Canadian troops had reinforced the prison with cement blocks after the 2008 suicide attack.

"They wanted to keep people busy in the city and break the prison, but the Canadians last time did a good job," he said.

Kandahar resident Ghulam Haider said his house was completely flattened in the attacks.

"The families of us four brothers lived together in this house. Two members of my family were killed and sixteen others wounded including men and women, adults and children," Haider said.

Latif Khan, another Kandahar resident spent hours looking for his cousin's dead body, which he found on the morning of March 14.

"About 30 or 40 people have been martyred [in the bombings]. We have found the body of our martyred [cousin] and will take it away," Khan said.

The bombings were aimed at repeating a 2008 attack when Taliban suicide bombers broke into Kandahar's prison to free up their comrades.

Another roadside bomb on March 14 killed a Pakistani construction worker and wounded six of his colleagues south of Kandahar in the district of Dand.