Attacks kill 22 in Afghan province
CHARIKAR, Afghanistan - Six suicide bombers attacked a governor’s security meeting in one of Afghanistan’s most secure provinces, killing 22 people and driving home the point that the Taliban is able to strike at will virtually anywhere in the country.
The governor of Parwan, a relatively peaceful eastern province just 30 miles north of Kabul, survived. He said he picked up an assault rifle and shot at least one of the attackers dead from the waiting room of his office.
Two other insurgents detonated their vests, causing most of the deaths and burning part of the governor’s offices.
The attack in Charikar interrupted a provincial security meeting attended by Governor Abdul Basir Salangi, his police chief, an intelligence official, a local army commander, and at least two NATO advisers.
The bold daylight assault follows a similar attack by suicide bombers at a major Kabul hotel in June and the downing of a US helicopter full of special operations troops only 35 miles away from Kabul.
The attacks in and close to the capital raise more questions about Afghanistan’s ability to defend itself as the US-led coalition hands more of the country over to its struggling forces.
Police said yesterday’s assault began outside the front gate, where a car bomber set off an explosion that smashed through a wall of the compound, allowing five other insurgents toting assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers to enter.
All the attackers wore suicide vests, and at least three of them were dressed as police officers, police said.
Two attackers made it across a courtyard and detonated their vests inside the governor’s headquarters building, but three others were killed before they could enter, police said.
Salangi said he and his aides fired at insurgents from his offices. He claimed to have killed one of the attackers.
“I had an AK-47. I shot him from the window of my waiting room,’’ said Salangi, who was formerly the police chief of Kabul and a rebel fighter during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
He said it was the second time in the past month he was targeted by an assassination attempt.
Sixteen of the dead were civilian Afghan government employees and six were police officers, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry. At least 37 other people were injured.
In a separate development, NATO announced that three service members were killed yesterday in two separate improvised bomb attacks. The international coalition did not release any further details about the deaths.
The US-led coalition plans to send 10,000 troops home by the end of the year and is considering whether to move forces from Taliban heartlands in the south to reinforce troops fighting insurgents in the east.