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Afghan suicide bombing targets local police

The recent bombing highlights an ongoing shift among Taliban insurgents away from conventional warfare tactics toward suicide bombings.

By / October 3, 2007

A suicide bombing Tuesday –the second such attack in the last four days – comes in a year of record Afghan deaths as a hitherto rare tactic in Afghanistan emerges as a primary tool of the Taliban insurgency.

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The latest gruesome attack – killing at least 12 and injuring dozens – came at the beginning of the morning rush hour in Kabul, reports the British Broadcasting Corp. The victims included a mother and two of her children.

Tuesday's attack was carried out early in the morning on a bus carrying policemen to work in the western part of the city. However, the bus also contained the families of policemen, dropping their children to school. There were reports that as many as four of the dead were children.
Eyewitnesses said the bomber tried to get onto a bus picking up policemen.
Police already on the vehicle were suspicious and shot him, after which the injured bomber blew himself up, causing casualties both on the bus and in the street. The bomb ripped off the roof of the bus and blew out the sides.

The bombing was "the second suicide attack in four days against a bus carrying Afghan security forces," notes The New York Times. "The Taliban, through a spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack. On Saturday, the insurgency also claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a bus in Kabul packed with Afghan Army soldiers, which killed at least 30 people, including 28 soldiers, and 2 civilians."Another attack in the northeastern province of Kunar killed a soldier under American command, whose nationality remains unknown, and wounded three others on Tuesday.

The United Nations expressed outrage over the attack, Bloomberg reports. "We don't at this stage know the final numbers for dead and wounded, but it is clear this attack is among the worst that Kabul has seen," Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's Special Representative Tom Koenigs said in a statement on the UN's website.

This has been a "year of record violence," the Associated Press reported recently, using figures from a UN report, as well as its own tallies.

An Associated Press count of insurgency-related deaths this year is surpassing the 5,000 mark and a U.N. report finding that attacks have risen by 20 percent.
A new U.N. report found that while 76 percent of all suicide bombings in the country have targeted international and Afghan security forces, 143 civilians were killed by those bombs through August. The report, released in New York last week, also found that Afghanistan has averaged 550 violent incidents per month this year, up from 425 last year.
An AP count of insurgency-related deaths, meanwhile, reached 5,086 so far this year, the most deaths in Afghanistan since the invasion to topple the Taliban. The AP counted some 4,000 deaths in 2006, based on reports from Western and Afghan officials.
The AP tally counts more than 3,500 militants among the dead, but also more than 650 civilians killed either by militant violence or U.S. or NATO attacks. Almost 180 international soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year, including 85 Americans, a record pace. Last year, about 90 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan.

McClatchy Newspapers last month reported that the UN assessment "sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai." The nature of the Taliban insurgency has changed significantly since 2006, relying less and less on conventional attacks and more on "suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices, assassinations, intimidation, and abductions," it said.

The Taliban and associated groups have engaged in fewer large-scale clashes with foreign and Afghan forces because they suffered large numbers of casualties, including many mid-level and senior commanders, in conventional battles last year.
"Another reason must be the realization that these types of attacks are futile against a modern conventionally equipped military force supported by a wide range of air assets," said the report, which also noted improvements in the Afghan National Army.