Twin blasts rock southern Afghanistan
March 17, 2009
DELARAM, Afghanistan — A pair of suicide attacks in southern Afghanistan on Monday killed more than a dozen people, following a bloody weekend in which at least nine foreign troops were killed, including four Americans.
The weekend attacks, plus Monday’s suicide bombings in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, and in Delaram, in neighboring Farah province, appeared to make good on Taliban threats to step up violence against foreign soldiers and Afghan security forces as a countermeasure to the 17,000 additional U.S. troops that will be arriving in Afghanistan in the coming months.
According to U.S. Marines, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Afghan police station in Delaram, killing at least one police officer.
Seconds later, another attacker tossed a grenade into the compound and opened fire, killing at least one other officer and wounding several more people, including civilians, according to Maj. Reginald McClam, operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which is based outside the city.
The second attacker escaped on foot, and the Marines sent a number of troops into Delaram to help secure the area around the blast site and to search for the gunman, McClam said.
"We’ve got a pretty robust force on the ground to ensure that security is maintained," McClam said. "That’s the important thing right now."
The attack came a day after Marines and Afghan police thwarted another potentially devastating attack when they discovered a bomb planted in the Delaram market during a joint patrol. The discovery came after the patrol detained and questioned a man suspected of planting other bombs, the Marines said.
In a separate attack, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated a bomb inside a police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the capital of neighboring Helmand province. The Associated Press reported that the bomb killed at least nine people, but other news agencies put the death toll higher.
The Helmand provincial police chief told the AP that the attacker set off the bomb while police were exercising. At least eight of the dead and 21 of the wounded were police, the AP reported.
The Taliban frequently target the Afghan police, which aren’t as well-trained as the Afghan army and more lightly armed. An estimated 800 Afghan police were killed in Afghanistan last year, which saw the highest level of violence since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the ruling Taliban in 2001.
U.S. military officials here and in Washington say they expect more violence this year, especially as more troops arrive and the Afghan presidential elections in August edge closer.
President Barack Obama has pledged at least 17,000 more U.S. troops for Afghanistan this year, and senior defense and administration officials are conducting several reviews of the overall conduct and strategy of the war.
On Sunday, four U.S. troops were killed in eastern Afghanistan when their vehicle struck a bomb. Three British soldiers and a French soldier were also killed in attacks, and one German soldier died in a traffic accident, according to news agencies.
At least 64 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year — 36 of them American — according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks the wars in here and in Iraq. There are currently about 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, plus more than 40,000 troops from other countries.