Bombings targeting Italian base kill 5 Afghans

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car at the gates of an Italian military base Monday in one of two attacks on the relatively secure western city of Herat, killing at least five Afghans in a major commercial centre slated to be handed over by NATO to Afghan control in July.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car at the gates of an Italian military base Monday in one of two attacks on the relatively secure western city of Herat, killing at least five Afghans in a major commercial centre slated to be handed over by NATO to Afghan control in July.

The bombings claimed by the Taliban were the second major attack in three days as insurgents expand their targets outside the southern and eastern theatres that were the focus of American offensives last winter. In other violence around Afghanistan, four NATO service members were killed Monday.

Taliban attacks inside Herat are rare, though there are violence-prone districts on the city’s outskirts. But insurgents have been increasing attacks around the country since the group announced its spring offensive in late April and reaching into areas that had been fairly quiet until now.

The expansion of Taliban assaults into new areas suggests that the insurgents are making a statement about their reach just as NATO is trying to shift some more secure areas of the country to Afghan control. The international alliance aims to transition cities or provinces piecemeal to reach the goal of total Afghan control by 2014.

Herat, western Afghanistan’s largest city, is one of seven areas scheduled to be handed over to Afghan control in July as the first step of the transition of nationwide security responsibility to Afghan troops. Support for the Afghan war has been waning in allied countries after nearly 10 years of fighting and many NATO nations are sketching drawdown plans. Some have argued that the death of Osama bin Laden means that there is less need to spend money and lives in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week that plans for handing over control of the seven areas to Afghan soldiers in July remain on course, despite the new attacks. But attacks like those Monday could undermine international support even for the existing plan of gradual withdrawal.

The first explosion hit at the gates of the Italian base in a residential area of the city. Police said more than 30 were wounded. Five Italian soldiers were among the wounded, one of them seriously injured, Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said. A second explosion ripped through a bus stop at a busy downtown intersection and a third explosion was heard near the Italian base, officials said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said both attackers were aiming for the Italian base but the second explosion occurred when the bomber couldn’t get to his target.

“That blast may have had some civilian casualties,” Ahmadi said. “Our aim was not to kill civilians.”

The bombings followed close behind another major attack on Saturday, when an explosion struck inside the governor’s compound in northeastern Takhar province. It killed two top Afghan police commanders and wounded the German general who commands NATO forces in the north. Two Germans and two other Afghans died.

Among those killed was Gen. Daud Daud, a leader in the Northern Alliance group of minorities who fought against the Taliban. Daud was a former deputy interior minister for counternarcotics and a former bodyguard of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Northern Alliance commander who was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that provoked the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Leaders in the Northern Alliance say they want peace, but they are afraid of any deal that would give power to the Taliban, their former foes comprised mostly of ethnic Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan. Also, the Afghan government is concerned that Daud’s death — one in a spate of killings targeting Northern Alliance figures — could further erode ethnic Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek group support for its efforts to make peace with the Taliban.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai rushed back from a trip abroad after learning of Daud’s death, while his former presidential challenger issued a statement saying that it was a loss for those pushing for peace in the country.

“He was the strongest advocate of preserving Afghanistan’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Abdullah Abdullah wrote in a statement.

In Herat, an Afghan policeman and four civilians were killed in the explosions, said Raouf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the regional police commander.

Gunfire followed the attack at the Italian base and the police spokesman said two assailants holed themselves up in a nearby residential building. Sporadic shooting followed for hours before Afghan security forces shot them dead, he said.

The second explosion was about a mile from the base at an intersection packed with businesses and traffic. Ahmadi, the police spokesman, said most of the casualties were from the second blast but did not provide a specific breakdown.

While Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi offered his “encouragement” to all Italian soldiers Monday, a prominent member of Berlusconi’s Freedom Party, Margherita Bonniver, said the Herat attack should speed efforts to negotiate a pullout.

“A political solution will have to be effective to permit the international contingent to make an agreed upon withdrawal in the briefest time possible,” Bonniver said.

Four NATO service members died on Monday: two in a bomb attack in the east, one when a helicopter made a hard landing in the south and one when an Afghan soldier turned his gun on his NATO colleague.

The turncoat attack happened at an Afghan army base in southern Uruzgan province and the shooter escaped, said Abdul Hamid Wardak, the Afghan army commander for southern Afghanistan.

NATO confirmed that one of its service members was killed by a man in an Afghan army uniform but did not provide further details. Both NATO and the Afghan government said they are investigating.

————

Follow Heidi Vogt at http://twitter.com/heidivogt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read