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Afghanistan: Are Suicide Attacks Likely To Increase?

NATO peacekeeper stands guard at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on 28 September In the worst incident of violence since Afghanistan's 18 September elections, a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform rammed his motorcycle on 27 September into a bus carrying recruits for the nascent Afghan National Army (ANA) in Kabul. The blast left nine people dead and close to 40 injured. Most of the casualties were from the ANA.

Shortly after the blast, neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi said that a neo-Taliban loyalist from Kabul Province named Mullah Sardar Mohammad carried out the "sacrificial" attack.

Suicide attacks are rare in the continuing insurgency in Afghanistan. The last confirmed suicide attack in Kabul occurred in October 2004 in which a foreign woman and an Afghan girl were killed along with the bomber. In May, three people, including a UN employee, were killed in an Internet cafe. It was not clear if the attacker, who was also killed in the attack, had intended to kill himself or if his explosive device went off prematurely.

Suicide Attacks Not Common

Generally, Afghan authorities are keen to state that suicide missions are something that is not in the character of the Afghans. Unless hard evidence, as in the case of the most recent bombing, is available, they tend to discount the possibility of suicide attacks in favor of blasts by remote control devices or other means.

Even with the recent attack against the ANA recruits, Afghan Defense Ministry officials have discounted the neo-Taliban claim that the man was an Afghan.

"The News," an Islamabad-based daily, on 29 September reported that Hakimi has recently stated that as part of its "struggle against U.S.-led foreign occupation" the neo-Taliban would use suicide attacks occasionally to "inflict greater harm on the enemy and remind the world that Afghanistan is still in turmoil."

Hakimi did not elaborate on the frequency on which the neo-Taliban is planning to utilize suicide attacks or whether it has a sufficient number of volunteers for carrying out such missions.

When two suicide attackers carried out two separate attacks against the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in January 2004, Hakimi said that the neo-Taliban had "hundreds" of volunteer fighters ready to carry out further suicide missions.

In terms of deaths among civilians and military personnel, 2005 has been the bloodiest period since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001 -- 1,200 thus far. However, despite the fact that the tactics and equipment used by the neo-Taliban and its allies have improved, there is no indication that militants in Afghanistan have a large pool of volunteers ready to die in suicide missions.

However, if the speculations that militants in Afghanistan are reestablishing stronger links with their Al-Qaeda allies are true, and if terrorist groups active in Iraq decide that spreading their mayhem might benefit their cause, then Afghanistan may well have to brace for a bloodier future.

See also:

Afghan Journalist Talks To RFE/RL About Suicide Bombing

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