Taleban suicide bomber targets Kabul army bus
Taleban suicide bomber targets Kabul army bus
The bomber struck on a main street in the heavily secured Afghan capital, where the Taleban have already claimed responsibility for suicide attacks on the intelligence and traffic police headquarters this year.
Western officials say the trend reflects a shift in strategy, away from focusing on the US-led NATO combat mission which is due to withdraw next year to targeting Afghan forces preparing to take over.
“At around 7:10 a.m. (0240 GMT), a suicide attacker on foot detonated himself next to a military bus in third district of Kabul city, injuring six. They are members of the defense ministry and one civilian,” said police spokesman Hashmatullah Stanikzai.
A witness told the TOLO television channel that the bomber was carrying an umbrella to shield himself from snow.
“I was standing across the street when I saw a man holding an umbrella approach the army bus. He then slid under the bus. I thought he was the driver, but moments later the explosion happened,” he said.
A spokesman for the Taleban, which is leading an 11-year fight against the Western-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP that 17 personnel were killed and 17 or more seriously injured. The Taleban routinely exaggerate the death tolls from attacks they claim.
Among the nine attacks recorded by AFP in Afghanistan so far this year, only one of them, on January 25, targeted NATO troops, in the troubled eastern province of Kapisa. Five civilians were killed in that attack.
All the other attacks have targeted tribal elders, police or Afghan intelligence agents.
“Since the start of the year, the objective has mainly been Afghans, even if NATO remains a target,” a Western security official told AFP.
The Pentagon admitted Tuesday that NATO’s International Security Assistance Force had wrongly reported a seven percent decline in Taleban attacks last year, saying that the number was in fact roughly the same as in 2011.
“This is a regrettable error in our database systems that was discovered during a routine quality check. We are making the appropriate adjustments,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
The US government and NATO have repeatedly touted a purported drop in insurgent attacks as proof that the Taleban are on the retreat. The error raised questions about how governments and commanders are portraying the war effort.
The accurate number for insurgent attacks in 2012 showed the assaults had remained at the same level as in 2011, at more than 3,000, a US defense official said.
The United States and NATO have around 100,000 troops in Afghanistan but the vast majority will leave next year, with an estimated 352,000 NATO-trained Afghan police and soldiers taking over.
24 dead in Nicaragua after days of clashes between security forces and protesters
- Looting grips parts of the troubled Central American country in unrest sparked by pension reforms
- Security forces deployed by leftist President Daniel Ortega accused of resorting to deadly force
MANAGUA, Nicaragua: Days of clashes between protesters and security forces in Nicaragua have killed at least 24 people, a rights group said Sunday, as looting also gripped parts of the Central American country.
The unrest erupted Wednesday over pension reforms, with students a prominent group.
A robust response ordered by leftist President Daniel Ortega has seen the army deployed to the streets, independent media muzzled, journalists assaulted and pro-government demonstrators mobilized to counter the protests.
The European Union, the United States and the Vatican have expressed concern at the situation and called for calm.
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights told AFP that at least 24 people were killed since Wednesday, according to a toll it has compiled.
The center’s director, Vilma Nunez, warned that there was “a lot of misinformation” going around that made obtaining the figure difficult.
On Friday, the government put the number of people killed in two days of protests at 10. No more recent official toll has yet been made available.
On Saturday, a local journalist, Miguel Angel Gahona, was shot dead by a bullet in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Some local media reports said a police sniper was suspected to be responsible.
Looting was seen at stores in Managua. In some locations, armed store owners stood guard outside their premises to stop mobs from entering.
Parts of the capital were strewn with rubble, remnants of clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
A doctor treating those wounded in the clashes, Eyel Almanza, said in an interview that police officers were resorting to deadly force.
“The wounds suffered by students have been from firearms. Anti-riot police had been using rubber bullets, but not anymore — they are using live rounds,” he said.
Soldiers armed with rifles stood guard at public offices in Managua, as well as in the northern city of Esteli. The army said it was “providing protection to entities and strategic sites.”
Police on Thursday said one 33-year-old officer had been shot dead.
Nicabus, an international bus line with links to Costa Rica and Honduras, said it had suspended services due to the violence.
Protest groups announced a march to the Polytechnic University in the capital, where hundreds of students have been holed up since Thursday.
One male student who declined to give his name said the aim now was to see Ortega step down from office.
“We don’t want him as our president anymore. We don’t want this dictatorship,” he told AFP.
The protests are the biggest in the 11 years Ortega has been in power.
On Saturday, the president was rebuffed when he offered to speak to the private sector’s top business association about the pension reforms, which would see employee contributions increased and benefits reduced in a bid to tamp down on a climbing deficit.
The business association said there could be no dialogue unless Ortega’s government “immediately ceases police repression.”
Throughout the protests, journalists have reportedly faced attacks, been temporarily detained and had their equipment stolen.
Four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday. By Sunday, only one remained barred.
Panicked residents in Managua and elsewhere emptied supermarket shelves and bought fuel to see through what could become a prolonged crisis.
“With this stoppage, it’s possible we could be left with nothing to eat,” said Ines Espinoza, a resident in the north of capital who walked out of a store with her two children, carrying bottles of water, biscuits and canned food.
The unexpected wave of violence in an otherwise relatively tightly controlled country has caused international alarm.
The United States denounced the “excessive force used by police and others” in Nicaragua.
A US State Department statement urged Ortega’s government to allow journalists to work freely and to engage in “a broad-based dialogue” to calm the chaos.
The European Union called the violence “unacceptable” and also demanded that news media be permitted to do their work.
“Protests need to be conducted peacefully, and public security forces must act with maximum restraint,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Pope Francis, meanwhile, used his Sunday service in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to ask that the “pointless spilling of blood is avoided and the underlying issues be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility.”
Analysts and business leaders said the protests were fueled by dissatisfaction that went well beyond anger over pension reform.
“This has not been seen for years in Nicaragua,” said Carlos Tunnermann, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the US.
“There is a malaise of the population not only over the reforms, but for the way in which the country has been run,” he added.