Two massive car bombs went off in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least two people and wounding more than a dozen others. The attacks in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar come ahead of a major NATO offensive in the area to drive out the fundamentalist group. The attacks led one official to call for better intelligence-gathering in preparation for this next phase of the Afghanistan war.
Initial reports said that Britons had been killed in the second blast, which struck a compound housing foreign workers and was so powerful it collapsed nearby buildings. But Kandahar's provincial governor said on Friday that only Afghan citizens had been killed, reports the Telegraph.
Three Americans and one south African were injured and sources said a Briton had been wounded but was not in a serious condition. The wounded were being treated in the nearby Nato hospital at Kandahar airfield.
The 9 pm blast struck a compound housing the offices of the international contracting company Louis Berger Group, the Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative and the aid contracting company Chemonics International.
Windows were blown out across the city and it followed hours after another attack against a Kandahar hotel which wounded eight.
Tooryalai Wesa, governor, said there had been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which according to some reports involved a fuel tanker.
The New York Times says responsibility for the attack likely lies with the Taliban, for whom Kandahar is a spiritual homeland. The group has paralyzed the area with fear ahead of the arrival of the bulk of the 30,000 US soldiers gearing up for deployment, the Times reports. (See a map of Kandahar)
But many residents see corruption among the government and police as the larger problem, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
When it comes to Kandahar city politics, “I’m not sure whether I’m watching Godfather Part 2 or Godfather Part 3,” says Mark Sedwill, NATO’s top civilian official in Afghanistan, referring to the popular movie series about an American mafia family.
“It’s very difficult to untangle, but what’s really fueling the insurgency is groups being disenfranchised, feeling oppressed by the institutions of state and criminal syndicates.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s half brother and a top Kandahar official, said that rather than more security forces, what is needed is better intelligence, reports the Associated Press.
"But even then, if someone wants to kill himself it is very difficult to find and stop him," Karzai was quoted as saying.
Kandahar has a population of a half-million people, and has been rocked several times in recent weeks. On March 13, suicide bombers attacked locations around the city -- including the police headquarters -- in a failed attempt to free Taliban prisoners, according to the AP. Those attacks killed at least 30 people.
In a separate attack Thursday, rocket fire killed four German soldiers, reports Al Jazeera, in what was the deadliest attack against foreign troops this year.
The Germans were traveling together with Belgian and Swedish soldiers, who were also taking part in a mentor and training program for Afghan security forces, according to Der Spiegel.