Conflict & Justice

It's been a bad year so far for Afghanistan

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An Afghan policeman helps a wounded man during clashes following an attack on a police station at the main market in central Kabul on June 18, 2011. Armed militants stormed a police station in the heart of the Afghan capital, triggering an explosion and ongoing heavy exchange of fire, officials and witnesses said. The attackers got into the police station in the crowded main central market area, close to the Afghan presidential palace, defence ministry and other official buildings.

Credit:

Massoud Hossaini

Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, has become more and more unstable in recent months as Taliban fighters launch attacks with deadly regularity.

The series of attacks seem to indicate that security is deteriorating and that the Taliban's capabilities to coordinate spectacular bombings have not been diminished in any significant way. This, just as U.S. President Barack Obama plans for a steep withdrawal of troops and a major handover of security operations to Afghan forces.

Here's a look at the largest attacks that have struck the capital so far this year.

JUNE 28 — The explosions and firing went on for hours, residents said. As of this writing, there was little clarity about the purpose or the final outcome of Tuesday night's attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel. Those living near the scene reported several loud explosions as late as 2:15 a.m., and several people described random and sporadic firing in other parts of the city as well.

At least six attackers had somehow made their way inside the Intercontinental, according to Afghans security officials. An hour after the attack began, at about 10 p.m. in Kabul, reports said that up to 10 people had died. The final count could be much higher as local residents say that the loud booms of rocket explosions could be heard, as well as the sound of automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

JUNE 18 — Just over a week ago, suicide bombers targeted a police station in central Kabul, killing at least nine. Police reportedly noticed one of the militants approaching the station and acting strange. So they shot him. A second militant then detonated his vest, killing three police officers, one intelligence agent and five civilians.

(GlobalPost in Kabul: In search of respite in the middle of a war zone)

MAY 21 — A suicide bomber killed six students and wounded almost two dozen people at a heavily guarded national military hospital in Kabul. The bomber struck in the Charsad Bestar Hospital's cafeteria as medical students gathered to eat lunch at 12:30 p.m. local time on a Saturday. An Afghan intelligence official said there had actually been two suicide bombers at the hospital. One caused the blast in the cafeteria and the other has not yet been found, he said.

APRIL 27 — In one of the worst incidents of a disastrous spring, eight troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and one international contractor were killed when an Afghan Air Force pilot, dressed in uniform, opened fire in the military wing of Kabul International Airport.

The Taliban were prompt to claim credit, saying that this latest act of mayhem had been planned and ordered by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s name for themselves. They even named the shooter, “Azizullah.”

APRIL 18 — This day marked a significant milestone for the Afghan capital. The Taliban managed to penetrate into the heart of the Defense Ministry.

An armed man with an Afghan Army uniform and a valid ID managed to gain access to the offices of the defense minister himself, killing two and injuring seven before being shot by bodyguards. Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, the presumed target of the attack, escaped harm because he was not in the building at the time.

The bomber wore an Afghan military uniform, and at first most assumed that he had cobbled together the kit from supplies readily available in Kabul’s markets.

But the attacker was not an imposter at all. He was a bona fide member of the Afghan armed forces, a fact that sent shockwaves through the military establishment here. Worse still, the Taliban publicly gloated that they have another 150 to 200 infiltrators in Afghan institutions, just waiting to pull the cords on their suicide vests.

FEB. 14 — Two security guards were killed and two other persons wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the gates of a hotel and shopping complex in downtown Kabul. In a text message sent to several domestic and international media outlets, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed said that the insurgents were making good on their repeated threats to target foreigners.

City Center, the site of the attack, was Kabul’s first “mall,” and is still a powerful symbol of Western-style affluence. The complex also houses the Safi Landmark, a four-star hotel that is popular with foreigners.

This was the second time that City Center had been attacked. Last February, a series of blasts aimed at local guesthouses heavily damaged the outside of the shopping mall and blew out most of the complex’s emerald-green windows. It was several months before the hotel and the shopping center reopened their doors.

JAN. 28 — A suicide bomber attacked a popular downtown supermarket killing 14 people, including an Afghan human rights activist and her husband, a prominent doctor, and their four children.

Within an hour of the blast, which occurred at mid-afternoon when many Kabul residents were profiting from what was a day off to catch up on their food shopping, all the embassies, the United Nations, and other international organizations issued immediate lock-downs of personnel for the third that week.