Sunday, 25 November 2012

Suicide Bomber Devastates A Government Hub In Afghanistan

A suicide bomber driving a truck made his way to the heart of a provincial capital in Afghanistan on Friday and exploded his bomb, leveling many government and security buildings, badly damaging a prison and leaving the governor without an office.
The bomber struck in Maidan Shahr, in Wardak Province, killing two police officers and a young woman and wounding 90 others, including police officers and civilians, officials said. Though the province has long been sharply contested, this was the first such attack on Maidan Shahr, about an hour’s drive from the nation’s capital, Kabul, residents said.
Wardak’s governor, Abdul Majid Khogyani, was keeping track of the casualties on a piece of paper as he met with police officers and elders in the courtyard of the main government compound. It was so badly damaged that none of the rooms in the buildings were usable.
“If I had been here, I and my family would have been killed,” said Mr. Khogyani, gesturing to a guesthouse where he had been living. It was among the most heavily damaged of the structures still standing.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for the execution of Taliban prisoners this week by the Afghan government. However, Mr. Khogyani said he believed that his recent efforts to reconcile a number of Wardak’s villages with the government had angered the Taliban, who rely on rural support. He received warnings from security officials on Wednesday, the same day as the executions, that an explosives-laden truck had entered the city, suggesting that the attack had been planned well before the decision to hang the Taliban prisoners.

The bomb was so powerful that not only were windows blown out for blocks, but window and door frames close to the blast were also warped and askew, some wrenched from their fittings so that passers-by could see piles of furniture, glass and chunks of the walls inside the houses. The buildings closest to the blast were reduced to rubble. The bomb left a crater at least 20 feet across and 10 feet deep.
In the aftermath, the streets were filled with the sound of scraping glass as shopkeepers and security guards swept out broken windowpanes, leaving small piles on the streets. “There’s never been anything like this in our city,” said Naquibullah, who has a small grocery and dry goods store and, like many Afghans, uses only one name. “The rural areas and Saydabad are not safe, but the city has always been fine.”
Among the buildings demolished were the local government records office, where Afghans get their national identification card, known as the tazkera; the local office of the National Directorate of Security; a midwife’s center; and a women’s hostel. The prison was so badly damaged that Amir Mohammad Jamshidi, the head of prisons at the Interior Ministry, said the government would have to transfer all 146 prisoners to Pul-i-Charkhi, the main prison in neighboring Kabul Province.
“Today’s suicide attack injured 20 prisoners and 15 police officers,” Mr. Jamshidi said. “Three prisoners who tried to flee during the chaos were arrested by security forces.”
Close to sundown, several residents with bandages on their foreheads or arms wandered back to the scene, looking incredulously at the damage.
One of the medics, who had patched up dozens right after the blast, was back at the site helping American soldiers who had arrived to gather information.
“It was just horrific,” said the medic, who would not give his name. “I treated 45 people today. It’s a disaster; people lost so much.”

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