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Old Tactic, New Peril

2 minute read
Tim McGirk, Rahimullah Yusufzai and Brian Bennett

It was a bad week for U.S. troops in Afghanistan: eight soldiers died and three were wounded after a Taliban weapons cache they had discovered exploded outside Ghazni, 60 miles southeast of Kabul. U.S. officials say it’s too soon to know why the arsenal blew up, though the Taliban has booby-trapped such caches in the past. But the week’s events highlighted an even greater concern: the Taliban may be taking a cue from insurgents in Iraq and embarking on the deadly new tactic of suicide attacks in the country’s capital, Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a blast last week in which a man wearing an explosives belt leaped onto a Canadian armored vehicle in a crowded Kabul street, killing a soldier and injuring a dozen civilians. The next day, while officials were attending the soldier’s funeral, the Taliban struck again. A suicide bomber crashed an explosives-packed taxi into two British army vehicles, killing one soldier, wounding three others and taking the life of an Afghan civilian. A Taliban official, Latif Hakeemi, calling TIME from an undisclosed location, vowed that a wave of suicide attacks will follow. “There is no shortage of volunteers,” he said.

Insurgents in Iraq are trying to send the same message. A recruitment video shown to TIME, in a Sunni mosque in Baghdad, suggests that resistance fighters are trying to line up Iraqis for suicide bombings, which U.S. officials have so far thought were mainly the work of foreign fighters. The video features testimonials from five “martyrs”; two speak with Saudi accents, says an interpreter who watched the video, but two others have Iraqi accents. One man, the video claims, bombed the Turkish embassy in Baghdad. Another is identified as a Kurd who bombed a CIA office in Arbil. The video aims to motivate recruits by showing footage of Iraqis being forced to the ground and handcuffed by U.S. troops. A voice-over urges, “Go to help your brothers in Iraq.”

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