KABUL, Afghanistan — A day after five lethal bombs shook Kandahar, officials appealed Sunday to the central government to send more security forces and expand intelligence gathering in the southern province, underscoring the increasing violence and lawlessness in the city.
Although Kandahar has long had violent periods, a number of explosions and assassinations in recent weeks have suggested that it is entering an even more chaotic chapter, with the authorities unable to ensure residents’ safety.
The bombs on Saturday evening, which exploded a few minutes apart, killed at least 35 people and wounded 57, according to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. The dead included 13 police officers, most of whom died guarding the police headquarters, where a suicide car bomber struck, said Zemarai Bashary, the ministry’s spokesman.
“The vehicle which was driving toward the entrance of the Kandahar police headquarters was stopped by the police, and after that, he detonated himself,” Mr. Bashary said.
The Taliban on Sunday called the attacks a warning to the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, that they were ready for the war’s next major offensive in Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace.
“General McChrystal has said that soon they will start their operations, and now we have already started our operations,” a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “With all the preparations they have taken, still they are not able to stop us.”
As the police pieced together the details of Saturday’s attacks, it became clear that they continued a recent string of coordinated bombings. At least three attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital, since October have involved multiple bombers and sometimes gunmen striking vulnerable civilian targets.
An attack in October on a guesthouse in Kabul killed five United Nations employees, two Afghan security officials and the brother-in-law of a prominent Afghan politician and the three attackers; one in January that focused on a shopping center killed five and involved seven bombers; a third in February that destroyed two guesthouses and killed 16 people involved three bombers.
Four of the five explosions on Saturday in Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city and a center of Taliban activity, were carried out by suicide bombers.
The attackers struck the Kandahar prison, where many Taliban are held, as well as the police headquarters, an area in front of a mosque, another in front of a market and a city intersection.
In a disturbing development, the police on Sunday found eight suicide vests hidden in the neighborhood near the prison, suggesting that the attackers might have had other bombers lined up to use them after an initial suicide car bomb breached the prison’s fortifications, according to law enforcement officials.
“The goal of the enemies from last night was to set free the criminals and prisoners who were inside the jail by breaking down the jail and paving the ground for the prisoners to escape,” said Mr. Bashary, the ministry spokesman. “They failed in their mission.”
The provincial governor, Tooryalai Wesa, was more circumspect. “We cannot say whether the prison was the main target,” he said, “or whether it was an attempt to get revenge on the Marja military operation or just to show they can sabotage the operation.”
Mr. Wesa said the Taliban wanted to send the message, “We can do whatever we want, everywhere in the city of Kandahar.”
The Marja military operation is part of a broad effort, primarily being carried out by American troops, to banish the Taliban from the Helmand River Valley, one of their rural strongholds. Military leaders say it will be followed by a similar effort to dislodge the Taliban from Kandahar city and surrounding rural areas.
Source : nytimes