TIME Afghanistan

Two Foreign Troops in Afghanistan Killed by Men in Afghan Uniforms

The two men in Afghan uniforms opened fire on a vehicle

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Two men wearing Afghan security force uniforms opened fire Wednesday inside a military base in southern Afghanistan, killing two NATO service members before being shot dead themselves, the international force said.

NATO offered few details about the shooting in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, which appeared to be the latest so-called “insider attack” to target foreign troops or contractors in the country. Afghan officials said they had no immediate details about the attack.

In a statement, NATO said the two men in Afghan uniforms opened fire on a vehicle with international troops inside it. Both shooters were killed when NATO forces returned fire, it said.

NATO did not elaborate, nor did it identify the nationalities of the international troops killed nor the base the attack took place. It said the attackers wore “Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms,” which include the country’s police, military and border patrol.

The motive for the attack was not immediately known and no group claimed responsibility for the assault. In past attacks, Taliban insurgents have been known to wear Afghan police or military uniforms to stage attacks on the international troops. Others have opened fire apparently on the own accord, like an Afghan soldier who last year killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranked U.S. officer to be slain in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War.

The shooting is the third “insider attack” on foreign forces this year. In January, three American civilian contractors were shot dead at Kabul airport by an Afghan soldier who was also killed. In April, an American soldier was killed by an Afghan soldier inside the compound of the governor of eastern Nangarhar province’s city of Jalalabad.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Afghan forces were at risk of being overrun after hundreds of insurgents launched a mass attack days earlier on a district headquarters in Helmand province’s Musa Qala district, said Karim Atal, the head of Helmand’s provincial council. Atal said the central government had yet to send reinforcements.

TIME Afghanistan

3 Americans Killed in Suicide Attack on NATO Convoy

Bomb explosion in Kabul
Jawad Jalali—EPA Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 22 2015.

The attack killed at least 12 people and wounded 66

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy traveling through a crowded neighborhood in Afghanistan’s capital Saturday, killing at least 12 people, including three American civilian contractors for the international military force, authorities said.

The Taliban quickly denied it was behind in the attack in Kabul’s Macrorayan neighborhood, though the militants increasingly have been targeting Kabul in recent weeks and often don’t claim attacks that maim large numbers of civilians.

The attack struck near the private Shinozada hospital, the sound of the powerful blast roaring throughout the capital. Ambulances and Afghan security forces quickly surrounded the blast site, blocking access off from about 1 kilometer (half a mile) away.

The bombing killed at least 11 Afghan civilians and one foreigner and wounded 66, said Wahidullah Mayar, a Health Ministry spokesman. In a statement, NATO said one of the Americans was killed in the blast, while the two others later died of their wounds. The contractors were not named.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the differing casualty figures, though conflicting information is common after such attacks.

At least one armored vehicle in the convoy had been destroyed by the blast. It wasn’t clear how many armored cars were in the convoy, though it is at least two, often three because of heightened security concerns in the capital.

The blast struck as schools were letting out for the day in Macrorayan, a Soviet-built housing estate lined with shops, hospitals and schools. Najib Danish, a deputy Interior Ministry spokesman, said the attack destroyed more than a dozen civilian vehicles parked in the street and passing by.

“A lot of dead bodies and wounded victims were there after the explosion happened in the area,” said Mohammad Hussain, who was wounded in the attack. “There were a lot of casualties.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. In an email to journalists, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied his group was responsible.

However, the Taliban has stepped up its assaults on Afghan security forces since U.S. and NATO troops ended their combat mission in the country last year. The militants also have launched a series of attacks in Kabul in recent weeks following Afghan authorities announcing the death of the Taliban’s one-eyed leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Their targets have included foreign military and civilian convoys.

On Aug. 7, a Taliban attack on a NATO military base near Kabul’s international airport killed an American soldier and eight Afghan contractors. A Taliban-claimed suicide car bombing targeting a NATO convoy on June 30 on the main highway to the Kabul airport wounded two U.S. soldiers and at least 24 others while killing two Afghan civilians.

On May 17, a British security contractor was killed when the armored car he was traveling in for Eupol was hit by a suicide car bomber. Two Afghan women nearby also were killed.

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. Soldier Convicted of Afghan Massacre Had History of Violence, Report Reveals

Robert Bales, SSgt. Reobert Bales
U.S. Army/Tacoma, Washington News-Tribune/AP Staff Sergeant Robert Bales in March, 2012.

But the incidents didn't suggest future "extremely violent acts," the report said

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier serving a life sentence after being convicted of murdering 16 Afghan villagers in 2012, had exhibited violence before the alleged war crime, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report, led by Maj. Gen. of the U.S. Army Ricky L. Waddell, said Bales had punched an Afghan truck driver and displayed erratic behavior due to steroid use in two separate incidents, roughly one month before Bales shot to death 16 villagers in March 2012. Neither incident was reported to authorities on the remote military base, the report said.

Investigators concluded that the command climate at the base suffered from “low standards of personal conduct and discipline,” but added that Bales’ behavior did not suggest he would “commit the extremely violent acts,” according to the report.

Several media organizations have unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the report since it was completed in June 2012 through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Authorities had previously rejected the requests due to the case’s ongoing nature.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Capital on Edge After Attacks Kill at Least 44 People

afghanistan kabul suicide bombing attacks
Ahmad Masood—Reuters Afghan National Army soldiers watch as an excavator works at the site a truck bomb blast in Kabul on August 7, 2015.

Even as Afghans protested the violence and donated blood to victims, people remained worried

(KABUL, Afghanistan)—A series of attacks that killed at least 44 people and wounded over 300 in one day has shattered the relative calm of Afghanistan’s capital, even as some had hoped fledgling negotiations with the Taliban and the death of their figurehead could bring peace.

The attacks Friday in Kabul marked the highest number of civilians killed and wounded in a single day, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which began keeping its statistics in 2009. Even Saturday, as Afghans protested the violence and donated blood to victims, people remained on edge.

“I feel danger even now, right now as we are talking,” said Kabul resident Mohammad Naeem. “And when I see the crowd of people I think maybe a suicide attack will take place with a car bomb or on a motorbike. Anything is possible.”

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that ousted the Taliban, Kabul always has been the target of insurgent attacks. But Friday’s attack included a massive truck bombing targeting a residential area in the capital that killed 15 people and wounded more than 200, something unusual. Security forces say they have thwarted a number of attempts to bring large caches of explosives into the capital and at least one truck bomb exploded this year while attempting to enter the city limits.

Friday’s two other attacks included a suicide bomber attacking recruits outside a police academy, killing at least 20 cadets and wounding 24, as well as an attack on a NATO military base near Kabul’s international airport. The NATO base attack killed one international service member and eight Afghan contractors, NATO spokesman Col. Brian Tribus said. The Afghan Interior Ministry said the assault wounded 10 local security guards, while three insurgents were killed.

NATO did not identify the nationality of the international trooper killed. The Taliban claimed the police academy attack and the NATO base assault, without mentioning the truck bombing. The insurgents often don’t claim attacks that kill women and children.

U.S. and NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year. In the time since, Afghan security forces have been taking record casualties in their fight against insurgents across the country.

Civilians also have suffered. A recent U.N. report shows a 1 percent increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of the year, the overwhelming majority caused by the insurgents. Almost 5,000 people were killed or wounded during that time, the report said, with the number of women and children affected by the violence up 23 and 13 percent respectively.

Meanwhile Saturday in eastern Nangarhar province, a roadside bomb killed a traffic police officer and a civilian and wounded three near a checkpoint in Surkh Rod district, authorities said.

President Ashraf Ghani promised to retaliate against the perpetrators and linked the Kabul attacks to the recent announcement by his government that Taliban figurehead Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for more than two years.

The appointment of Mullah Omar’s replacement, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, has sparked dissent within the Taliban. That’s also raised questions about the peace process that Ghani has made pivotal to his presidency. After a series of informal talks, a first formal, face-to-face round of negotiations was held in Pakistan on July 7. The announcement of Mullah Omar’s death saw future talks cancelled.

However, many seem to take Friday’s bombings as a message that the Taliban won’t quit fighting — and that Kabul remains a major target.

“Since the death of Mullah Omar, explosions are still happening,” Kabul resident Mohammed Zahir said. “These problems have increased and we can’t expect anything from the government.”

Later Saturday, hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil in memory of those who died. Many blamed Pakistan, long suspected of harboring insurgents, for allowing the attacks in Kabul to take place. They burned Pakistani currency with the candles lit to remember the dead.

“Our nation is in mourning,” said Aryan Afghan, who took part in the vigil.

TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Bomber Hits Kabul Police Academy, Killing 20 Recruits

Afghans gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 7, 2015.
Rahmat Gul—AP Afghans gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 7, 2015.

It was the second major attack of the day

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform struck outside the gates of a police academy in Kabul on Friday evening, killing at least 20 recruits and wounding 25, Afghan officials said, the second massive attack of the day in Afghanistan’s capital.

The attacker walked into a group of recruits waiting outside the academy and detonated his explosives-laden vest, said a police officer, who goes by the name of Mabibullha. Many Afghans use only one name.

Another police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said there were also at least 25 wounded among the recruits. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack.

Earlier in the day, a massive truck bomb killed at least 15 people near a government complex and a military base in a residential area of Kabul. That blast hit at 1 a.m. and also wounded 240, officials said. It was one of the largest ever in Kabul — a city of 4.5 million people — in terms of scale, flattening a city block and leaving a 30-foot crater in the ground.

The president’s office said 47 women and 33 children were among the casualties. The president’s deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said about 40 of the wounded would remain hospitalized.

President Ashraf Ghani threatened a rapid and forceful response, saying the attack was aimed at diverting public attention from the Taliban’s leadership struggle but that it would not sway his determination to carry on with efforts to bring peace to the country.

“We are still committed to peace. But we will respond to these sort of terrorist attacks with force and power,” Ghani said in a statement.

The Afghan intelligence agency announced over a week ago that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive one-eyed founder and leader of the Taliban, had been dead for more than two years. This sparked a leadership struggle among senior Taliban figures, raising concerns of a succession crisis that could splinter the group.

The implications of the Kabul attacks undermine claims by security services and the government that the capital is immune from devastating attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the earlier attack as well. The Taliban said they were not behind the explosion, though the group does not usually claim responsibility for attacks that kill or maim large numbers of civilians, especially women and children.

Ghani, freshly returned from medical treatment in Germany, visited the wounded from the earlier morning attack in hospital as social media carried calls for blood donations.

TIME Afghanistan

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 8 in Afghanistan

Suicide bomb attack in Logar
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Afghan Security forces inspect the scene after a suicide bomb attack on an official buildings which killed at least six people and injured 10 others in Logar province of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 6, 2015.

The bomb exploded near a government compound

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Authorities in Afghanistan say a suicide car bomb has exploded in the capital Kabul, killing 8 people and wounding 128 others.

Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Mohammad Ayuob Salangi said the bomb exploded near a government compound.

Dr. Fida Mohammad in the emergency unit of Ibnisina Hospital said early Friday that the injured include 15 children and 20 women. He said most of the injuries were caused by flying glass.

 

TIME Afghanistan

An Afghan Military Helicopter Has Crashed, Killing 17

The cause of the crash is unknown

(KABUL, Afghanistan) —An Afghan military helicopter crashed in a remote region of the southern Zabul province on Thursday, killing a total of 17 soldiers, including five pilots, officials said.

Provincial police chief Mirwais Noorzai said the cause of the crash was not yet known and was under investigation. The Defense Ministry said the crash was believed to be caused by a technical problem, but provided no further details.

The crash is among the worst suffered by the Afghan military since U.S. and NATO forces concluded their combat mission at the end of last year, shifting to a support and training role instead.

Meanwhile, in eastern Logar province, a suicide bomber exploded a truck loaded with explosives outside provincial government offices, killing eight people and wounding another 12.

Din Mohammad Darwish, spokesman for the governor of Logar province, near Kabul, said the dead from Thursday’s attack included three police officers and five civilians. Five police were among the wounded.

The massive blast, in provincial capital Puli Alam, blew out windows in buildings 500 meters (1,600 feet) away, he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying the targets were military and paramilitary units.

The Taliban insurgency is currently in turmoil, following confirmation of the death of its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar. Afghan authorities say he died in a Pakistani hospital more than two years ago.

TIME Afghanistan

New Afghan Taliban Leader Vows to Continue Insurgency

He replaces former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar

(KABUL, Afghanistan)—The new leader of the Afghan Taliban vowed to continue his group’s bloody, nearly 14-year insurgency in an audio message released Saturday, urging his fighters to remain unified after the death of their longtime leader.

The audio message purportedly from Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor also included comments about peace talks, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether he supported them or not.

Mansoor took over the Taliban after the group on Thursday confirmed that former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died and said they elected Mansoor as his successor. Afghan government announced Wednesday that the reclusive mullah had been dead since April 2013.

“We should keep our unity, we must be united, our enemy will be happy in our separation,” Mansoor purportedly said in the message. “This is a big responsibly on us. This is not the work of one, two or three people. This is all our responsibility to carry on jihad until we establish the Islamic state.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid sent the audio to journalists and others Saturday. The Associated Press could not independently verify the man speaking in the roughly 30-minute audio clip, though the Taliban spokesman is in charge of all communications for the group.

Mullah Omar was the one-eyed, secretive head of the Taliban, whose group hosted Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He had not been seen in public since fleeing over the border into Pakistan after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

The new leader of the Taliban is seen as close to Pakistan, which is believed to have sheltered and supported the insurgents through the war. Whether he’ll be keen to sit down for peace talks with the Afghan government remains in question. The Taliban pulled out of talks scheduled for Friday in Pakistan after Mullah Omar’s death became public.

Taliban attacks against Afghan officials and forces have intensified with their annual warm-weather offensive. Local security forces increasingly find themselves under attack as NATO and U.S. troops ended their combat mission in the country at the end of last year.

TIME Innovation

The Downside of the Death of Mullah Omar

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. The U.S. put a $10 million bounty on Mullah Omar. But his death might spell disaster for peace talks in Afghanistan.

By David Rohde in Defense One

2. If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention.

By Rachel Thomas in Medium

3. Politicians propping up food prices are playing with fire.

By Joseph Weinberg in Political Violence at a Glance

4. There are still more than four million unexploded mines in Cambodia. These rats are sniffing them out.

By Linda Poon in CityLab

5. Robot umpires aren’t perfect, but they’re better than humans at calling strikes and balls.

By Joseph Stromberg in Vox

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Afghanistan

The Afghan Taliban Has Elected a New Leader After Mullah Omar’s Death

A long-time deputy of the Taliban co-founder and leader was elevated to the top position

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has been chosen as the head of the Afghan Taliban, according to two commanders of the Islamic militant organization.

The commanders said the long-time deputy of the deceased Mullah Omar was elected at a shura or meeting of top Taliban representatives just outside the Pakistani city of Quetta where many of them are based, Reuters reports.

Siraj Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani militant faction within the Taliban, has been selected as Mansour’s deputy. Mansour is only the Taliban’s second-ever leader, with Omar having been at the helm since founding the Afghanistan-based militant organization in the 1990s.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed reports of Omar’s death, although he said it occurred more recently than April 2013—the date given by the Afghanistan government earlier this week.

“For some time, (Omar) has been suffering a kind of sickness and over the last two weeks it became more serious, and due to that illness he passed away,” Mujahid said. The Taliban founder has not been seen in public since 2001, leading to widespread speculation of his whereabouts and multiple reports of his death over the last decade.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the current Afghanistan government, due to be held in and mediated by neighboring Pakistan, have been postponed indefinitely in the meantime. Pakistan cited the reports of Omar’s death as the reason for delaying the talks, because of concerns that a battle for succession could further deepen discord between the Taliban’s numerous factions.

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