September 18, 2007 in Nation/World

Suicide bomber kills seven in Afghanistan

John Ward Anderson Washington Post

KABUL, Afghanistan – At least seven people were killed Monday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed vest outside a government building in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent regions in the country.

The attack was the latest in a string of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, where such attacks were rare until a few years ago.

So far this year, there have been 103 suicide attacks, according to a new U.N. report, which said the bombings are harming “civilians’ perceptions of the ability of the Afghan government to protect them.”

Monday’s attack apparently targeted the police chief of Nad-e Ali, a small town near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, according to Haji Abdul Manaf, a government official in the nearby town of Gereshk.

The incident occurred about 1 p.m. when the bomber attempted to approach the chief outside Nad-e Ali’s main government building, according to a regional police official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the attacker detonated his charge after being stopped by police guards at a checkpoint. Three police officers and four civilians were killed in the blast; the police chief and several others were injured.

Suicide bombings have plagued Iraq, where thousands of people have been killed in attacks on markets, mosques, buses, checkpoints, bridges and other public targets since the start of the war there. Many of the attackers are Sunni Muslims from the extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq, and the victims are typically Shiites. Suicide bombings in Afghanistan appear to be rarely, if ever, sectarian.

According to the U.N. report released last week, Afghanistan recorded only two suicide attacks in 2003 and three in 2004. In 2005, the figure spiked to 17, and last year it ballooned to 123.

Some analysts have asserted that suicide attacks “are not consistent with Afghan culture ” and are the work of foreigners, the report noted.

However, it said, “the expansion of suicide assaults has compelled analysts to believe that while the practice may have begun as an imported tactic, the suicide mission has become an integral part of the Taliban’s strategy.”

In a comprehensive analysis of attacks over the first six months of this year, the report found that 193 people, most of them civilians, had been killed in suicide attacks. Sixty-two of the fatalities were members of Afghan security forces, and 10 were from international military forces.

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