WaPo : Suicide Bombing Kills at Least 18 in Afghanistan

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Suicide Bombing Kills at Least 18 in Afghanistan

By Candace Rondeaux | Washington Post Foreign Service | April 30, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 29 -- At least 18 people were killed in a suicide bombing in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the second high-profile attack in the country this week, according to Afghan officials.

Around the same time that the blast was set off in the district of Khogiani, near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, assailants fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, killing an unspecified number of Afghan police officers, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. ISAF troops were near the center of Khogiani at the time of the blast, but none was injured, a spokeswoman for the force said.

Meanwhile, security remained tight in Kabul two days after an assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a military ceremony.

On Tuesday, Afghanistan's intelligence chief told parliament that the government had been warned of a plot against Karzai. "We had technical information . . . that this work would happen," said Amrullah Saleh. "We passed this information to the national security [adviser] and to the president of Afghanistan."

Despite security measures, Saleh said, "the result is that we failed."

The brazen daylight assault occurred at a ceremony celebrating the 16th anniversary of the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Karzai and several foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador William B. Wood, scattered for cover after Taliban fighters peppered the parade grounds with gunfire.

Three people were killed in the attack, including a member of Afghanistan's parliament. At least eight others were injured. Officials said they had rounded up more than 100 people in connection with the attack.

The blast Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan occurred just after 9 a.m. when a lone suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the headquarters of the district chief, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry. An estimated 35 people were injured.

"There were a lot of people there because that is where many of the shops are, and there is a market bazaar there," said Hakim Asher, a ministry spokesman.

A spokesman for the governor of Nangahar, the province where the blast occurred, said the attack targeted a group of local officials who were part of a poppy eradication team. Khogiani's police chief was killed in the attack and the district chief was injured, the spokesman said.

The Interior Ministry said the Taliban asserted responsibility for the suicide blast -- one of more than 140 such attacks conducted by Taliban forces in Afghanistan within the last year. Asher said security had been tightened in Khogiani immediately following the blast.

The succession of attacks came as U.S. Marines rolled out an operation in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold. More than 3,000 Marines were deployed in Afghanistan's south last month in an effort to shore up British and Canadian NATO forces there.

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.