Anger as elite Afghan troops die in deadly Taliban strike

The assault is the latest in a series of deadly attacks by the Taliban. (Reuters)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Anger as elite Afghan troops die in deadly Taliban strike

  • Attack result of ‘serious negligence,’ could have been carried out with ‘inside help’
  • More than 160 soldiers were believed to have been present at the base during the attack

KABUL: They were among Afghanistan’s best and most experienced fighters —  elite Afghan special forces who had survived years of deadly combat on battlefields around the country.

But that was no protection on Monday when a Taliban attack on their military compound, 30 km west of Kabul, left more than 50 soldiers dead, with some estimates putting the death toll as high as 120.

The attack on the National Directorate of Security (NDS) complex began early in the morning when a US-made armored Humvee vehicle was driven inside the base and blown up. Gunmen then opened fire before being killed by security forces.

Dozens of Afghan troops died in the blast as they huddled around stoves in a dining hall, sharing breakfast with new recruits.

The assault — one of the bloodiest in the 17-year history of the conflict — is the latest in a series of deadly attacks by the Taliban, which has seized control of large areas of Afghanistan.

Afghan officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the attack, but their dismay, anger and frustration were visible when they discussed the strike in Maidan Wardak province, a major gateway to the capital.

The NDS issued a statement on Tuesday saying 36 soldiers had died and 58 were wounded in the attack.

“I do not know how many have been killed, all I can say is the attack is among the worst seen in years and the casualties were the highest inflicted on special forces in a single incident,” a security source told Arab News on condition of anonymity.

The troops were among the best trained by US, well-equipped and highly paid compared with other national forces. Some had taken part in dozens of raids in rugged areas of Maidan Wardak, a region that is home to a large number of militants, two officials said. As the soldiers were having breakfast in the heavily fortified compound, a man wearing a special forces uniform drove an armored Humvee up to the complex, managed to get past the security gate and set off explosives hidden in the vehicle outside the entrance to one of the buildings.

Humvees are provided by the US military to Afghan forces, and the Taliban has used them in past attacks on Afghan bases after seizing the vehicles in raids around the country.

“The explosion was powerful and shattered windows residential houses well away from the site of the attack,” Khalid Ahmad, a resident, told local TV. Many troops were killed when a roof collapsed in the blast, Mohammad Sardar, a member of the provincial council, told Arab News by phone.

Minutes later, four Taliban gunmen entered the compound in a car and fought for several hours with survivors of the blast, residents said.

More than 160 soldiers were believed to have been present at the base during the attack.

Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a retired general and security analyst, said the attack was the result of “serious negligence” and could have been carried out with inside help.

“The commander of the base should have identified which areas of the compound were vulnerable and taken the decision to (protect) them,” Yarmand told Arab News.

“The attacker managed to get the armored car laden with explosives past the main gate and blow it up at the entrance to a building. An investigation is needed to find out if there was any inside help and how he managed to get inside the base,” he said.


US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

Updated 26 March 2019
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US top court blocks USS Cole sailors from $315m in compensation from Sudan

  • Overturns lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets
  • Sudan denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Tuesday prevented American sailors injured in the deadly 2000 Al-Qaeda bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting almost $315 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.
In a 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned a lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets. The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to Al-Qaeda for the attack in Yemen.
Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case.
In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of US law because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the African country’s embassy in Washington rather than to its minister of foreign affairs in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
A lower court had levied damages by default because Sudan did not defend itself against allegations that it had given support to the extremist group.
The Oct. 12, 2000, attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it was refueling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a gaping hole in its hull. The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.
Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued the government of Sudan in 2010 in Washington. At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan’s embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a US law governing when foreign governments may be sued in American courts.
Writing for the court’s majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that other countries’ foreign ministers must be reached where they normally work, “not a far flung outpost that the minister may at most occasionally visit.”
Alito expressed sympathy toward the sailors, writing that the ruling may seem like it is enforcing an empty formality.
“But there are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction,” Alito said, adding that the case had sensitive diplomatic implications.
Alone in his dissent, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said that allowing litigants to send notices of lawsuits to embassies would comply with both US and international law.
The Trump administration had told the justices that a ruling against Sudan could impact how the US government is treated by foreign courts because the United States rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies.
The sailors were highly critical of the administration’s position. “Particularly given this administration’s solicitude for veterans, its decision to side with a state sponsor of terrorism, against men and women who are seeking to recover for grievous injuries suffered in the service of our country, is inexplicable and distressing,” they said in a legal brief.
In 2012, a federal judge in Washington issued a default judgment of $314.7 million against Sudan. Individual plaintiffs were to receive between $4 million and $30 million each.
A separate judge in New York later ordered certain banks to turn over assets they had held for Sudan to partially satisfy the judgment. The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld those orders in 2015.
A lawyer representing Sudan and a representative for Sudan’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment. An attorney for the sailors also could not be reached for comment.