Tuesday, January 26, 2010

US War Update: More Bombings in Kabul; Baghdad Hit in Coordinated Attacks

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
16:35 Mecca time, 13:35 GMT

Suicide attack hits Afghan capital

A suspected suicide bomber has detonated his explosives outside a foreign military base in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

At least five civilians were wounded, as well as an unspecified number of foreign troops, in the attack on Tuesday, officials told news agencies.

"It was a suicide attack on foreign troops. There are casualties among Afghan civilians and foreign forces," a source told the Reuters news agency.

An interior ministry official told the AFP news agency said that the suicide bomber was in a car laden with explosives.

The attack is reported to have occured on a road leading eastwards from the city centre close to several foreign military bases.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
14:07 Mecca time, 11:07 GMT

Kabul attack 'linked to Pakistan'

A shopping centre in the Afghan capital was among the buildings damaged in the attack

Afghanistan intelligence has said fighters smuggled over the border from Pakistan were responsible for a recent assault on government targets in the Afghan capital.

Officials in Kabul released video footage on Tuesday of a man arrested in connection with the attacks who said that the Haqqani network, a group of Afghan fighters based in Pakistan, were behind the offensive.

The man, an Afghan identified as Kamal Uddin, said in his alleged confession that there had been seven suicide bombers in the attack, which took place on January 18.

"I was in charge of two suicide bombers and took them to a shopping centre near the presidential palace," he said, noting that he had housed the suicide bombers and their co-ordinators ahead of the attacks.

Afghan security forces arrested Kamal Uddin just 24 hours after the attack.

Intelligence officials said that a Pakistani mobile phone chip, also known as SIM card, had been found at his house.

Co-ordinated attacks

The attacks, said to be the most co-ordinated offensive on the capital since the US-led invasion in 2001, took place while Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was swearing in some of his cabinet minister.

At least five people were killed and about 38 more wounded in the protracted gun battles that followed.

The Serena Hotel, which is frequented by foreign journalists, was also targeted.

In the wake of the attacks, Afghan security forces won some praise from their international counterparts for dealing with the incident.

The Haqqani network has carried out attacks in Kabul before, and US commanders have identified group as one of the biggest threats to US forces in Afghanistan.

The network, which was initially nurtured by America's Central Intelligence Agency, has carried out attacks on foreign forces across the majority of eastern Afghanistan.

International conference

David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said: "The interesting thing about the Haqqani network is that they are one of the most deadly and effective groups fighting alongside the Taliban, with close links to al-Qaeda."

The Haqqani network has also been connected to Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI.

That makes Tuesday's announcement potentially embarrassing as Karzai is meeting regional leaders including Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, in the Turkish city of Istanbul for a conference on Afghanistan.

The talks, also attended by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, form part of the build-up to a conference in London where Karzai hopes for Western support for his strategy of encouraging Taliban fighters to lay down their arms with the promise of jobs and money.

Senior officials from Iran, China, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are among those attending the conference, as well as observers from the US, Russia and international organisations.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Bomber strikes 'Kabul army base'

A suspected suicide car bomber has struck near a military base in the Afghan capital Kabul, officials say.

Afghan and Nato officials said the blast went off outside a US base called Camp Phoenix on the road leading east out of the city centre.

There are reports that at least six people have been injured.

Security has been tight in Kabul since a group of gunmen and bombers attacked the highly-fortified centre of the city on 18 January.

A statement from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said the explosion was outside the main gate of Camp Phoenix.

It was most likely an improvised bomb hidden in a vehicle, Isaf said.

A spokesman for Afghanistan's interior ministry said five civilians had been injured. There are no reports of any deaths.

The Taliban claimed to have carried out the attack in a text message sent to the Associated Press news agency.

The bombing comes a week after a group of gunmen and suicide bombers struck the centre of Kabul, attacking government and commercial buildings.

Seven of the attackers were killed as well as two civilians and three security personnel and 71 people were injured, officials said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/01/26 14:04:18 GMT

Germany to expand Afghan forces

Germany plans to increase its military commitment to Afghanistan by sending 500 extra troops, Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

Germany currently has 4,300 soldiers in the country - the third-largest foreign contingent after the US and UK.

The extra deployment will need parliamentary approval. German MPs are due to debate the issue on Wednesday.

The announcement comes two days before an international conference in London on the future of the Afghan mission.

As well as the 500 extra troops, Germany will prepare a "flexible reserve" of 350 soldiers who could be deployed to Afghanistan for a limited time, Mrs Merkel said.

The focus of Germany's effort would be on training Afghan security forces and protecting civilians, she said.

'No shame'

She said Berlin would also put 50m euros ($70m, £44m) into an international fund to win over more moderate insurgents, and increase its development aid to 430m euros per year - nearly double the current level.

Germany, along with other Nato countries, has come under intense pressure to increase its commitment to Afghanistan, where the US is launching a "surge" with 30,000 extra troops to combat growing instability.

Mrs Merkel said: "I think that if Germany plans to train at least one-third of the police forces in Afghanistan, if it doubles what it is doing in terms of civil reconstruction and we make our entire approach more effective and harmonise it with the international community, plus adds 500 troops and a flexible reserve of 350 troops, then we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Unpopular mission

Mrs Merkel did not put a date on the withdrawal of German forces, but said she wanted Afghanistan to handle its own security by 2014.

Later her Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, said: "We want to start reducing our own contingent in 2011 and we want to complete the handover of security responsibilities to Afghanistan in 2014."

Germany's troops are based mostly in the north of the country. The region was relatively peaceful, but the spread of the Taliban insurgency means they have become involved in more fighting.

The mission is unpopular with the German public, especially since German forces called in a US air strike in September near Kunduz that left dozens of Afghan civilians dead.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai was due to travel to Berlin later on Tuesday, for talks with Mrs Merkel ahead of the London conference on Thursday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/01/26 13:12:12 GMT

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
12:38 Mecca time, 09:38 GMT

Car bomb rocks Iraqi capital

Three blasts a day earlier targeted well-known hotels in the Iraqi capital

At least 18 people have been killed and another 80 injured after a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad.

Police sources told Al Jazeera that the blast, in the Karrada neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, caused the collapse of a building that belonged to the criminal investigation department of the interior ministry.

Hospital and police officials said the bomber tried to drive through a police checkpoint and the blast walls protecting the offices, which are in Tahariyat Square.

Five of the dead and 25 of those injured worked in the interior ministry building.

The blast comes a day after three huge minibus bombs exploded across the capital killing dozens of people.

Those blasts targeted well-known hotels and came on the same day that the government announced the execution of "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, the ousted former president.

Iraqi politicians and US forces have warned of rising violence ahead of the March 7 elections, the second parliamentary ballot since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
00:33 Mecca time, 21:33 GMT

Triple bomb blasts rock Baghdad

Critics say Iraq's security forces are ill-equipped, not organised and may have been infiltrated

At least 37 people have been killed in three suicide car bombings, which took place within 10 minutes of each other, near hotels in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police said.

At least 71 other people were wounded in the blasts, which came during rush hour on Monday.

The blasts happened close to the Sheraton and Palestine Hotels in the centre of the city, and the Babil hotel in the south.

The hotels are located outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, where many government and international agencies are situated.

Ahmed Rushdi, a journalist in Baghdad, said the hotels appeared to be the targets of the blasts.

"These hotels were supposed to have major security because it's open for all the foreign journalists," he told Al Jazeera.

"Targeting these major hotels means that everyone here in Baghdad is targeted."

Infiltration fears

Alaa Makki, an Iraqi member of parliament, told Al Jazeera that legislators have called on Iraqi security forces to do more to fortify the capital.

"We have criticised the security ministry and ministers and the leader of the armed forces in the last session and we were waiting for them to do something about the security situation," he said.

"The area indicates that there might have been infiltration in the security forces, because those areas attacked were so secure and isolated. They were in the secure Green Zone where some TV channels and a hotel with VIPs going regularly are.

"So, there is criticism that there have been infiltrations in the forces, that they are not well-organised and unequipped to control security here."

'Signature of al-Qaeda'

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Saad al-Mutalabi, an adviser to the Iraqi council of ministers, blamed the blasts on al-Qaeda.

"We heard three large explosions in central Baghdad, and it became clear that the bombs targeted three of the large hotels in Baghdad," he told Al Jazeera.

"It may be a signal that al-Qaeda is trying to say that they are against the economic build-up in Iraq because the Iraqi government is keen on expanding the economy this year.

"It is a signature of al-Qaeda. I don't think any of the political forces in Iraq would commit such an atrocity. It would not benefit any of them."

While overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply following years of sectarian conflict that killed tens of thousands of people, bombings and assassinations still occur on a daily basis.

US and Iraqi officials have said they expect attacks to rise before parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7.

Al-Majid executed

The blasts came on the same day that Ali Hassan al-Majid, the cousin of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, was executed in Iraq for crimes against humanity.

Al-Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali", was sentenced to death last week for his role in the 1988 massacre of Kurds in Halabja, in which up to 5,000 people were killed.

He was executed by hanging on Monday, a government spokesman said.

Ahmed Chalabi, the former head of Iraq's de-Baathification Commission and current head of the Iraqi Congress Party, said it was not clear if the execution and the bombings were related.

"I cannot speculate on this issue," he told Al Jazeera.

"I believe that the explosions are connected to al-Qaeda in Iraq and I believe that this calls for extra vigilance to eliminate those from any role in the political life in Iraq."

Meanwhile, Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman, said the latest bombings "represent an extension" of the activities of fighters linked to Saddam's government.

But he stopped short of calling the blasts a possible revenge attack for the execution, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

No comments: