KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A suicide car bomber killed 38 people at a crowded market Monday, pushing the death toll from two days of bombings to about 140.
The marketplace blast, which targeted a Canadian army convoy, came a day after the country’s deadliest insurgent attack since a U.S. invasion defeated the Taliban regime in late 2001. The toll from that bombing in a crowd watching a dogfight rose to more than 100.
The back-to-back blasts in the southern province of Kandahar could be a sign insurgents are now willing to risk high civilian casualties while attacking security forces. Though their attacks occasionally have killed dozens, militants in Afghanistan have generally sought to avoid targeting civilians, unlike insurgents in Iraq’s war.
“The attacks show that the enemies of Afghanistan are changing their tactics. Now they are not thinking about civilians at all,” said Nasrullah Stanikzai, a professor of political science at Kabul University.
“They wanted to cause such big casualties in these attacks to weaken the morale of the government and the international community, to show the world the Afghan government is too weak to prevent them,” he said.
NATO said it expects insurgents in Afghanistan to turn more often to suicide bombings in the months ahead. The deployment of more troops into the insurgents’ heartland has restricted their ability to hold territory and launch conventional attacks, said U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s supreme commander, at the alliance’s headquarters in Belgium.
“I would expect that they will look for other ways to come back and it’ll be irregular, asymmetric, it’ll be with what is very sensational and resonates in the press and other places, that’s the bombings,” Craddock said.
The Taliban denied it carried out Sunday’s attack, but immediately claimed responsibility for the market bombing, which took place in the town of Spin Boldak about 100 yards from the border with Pakistan.
The bombings come amid warnings that Afghanistan could see even more violence this year than in 2007, when a record 6,500 people – most of them militants – were killed. The U.S., with a record high 28,000 soldiers already in the country, is sending 3,200 more Marines in April.
Hours before the marketplace bombing, Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid raised the toll from Sunday’s attack from about 80 to more than 100, saying some of the dozens who suffered wounds had died.
Khalid said 38 people died in Monday’s bombing and 28 were wounded. Three Canadian soldiers also had wounds, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said.