Suicide bombings kill 30 in Taliban stronghold city

An Afghan soldier stands guard in Shindand in Herat province on Saturday. Bombings in Kandahar were believed to be an unsuccessful attempt by insurgents to free prison inmates.

Associated Press

An Afghan soldier stands guard in Shindand in Herat province on Saturday. Bombings in Kandahar were believed to be an unsuccessful attempt by insurgents to free prison inmates.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A suicide squad detonated bombs at a newly fortified prison, a police headquarters and two other locations late Saturday, killing at least 30 people in the largest city of the southern Taliban heartland.

The prison was the main target, but no prisoners escaped, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half-brother said. Ahmed Wali Karzai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council, said two of the explosions occurred near his home, which was not damaged.

Wali Karzai said that Canadian troops had reinforced the prison with concrete block after a suicide attack in 2008 blew apart the gates and freed hundreds of criminals and suspected insurgents.

"They wanted to keep people busy in the city and break the prison, but the Canadians last time did a good job," Wali Karzai said. "They did a lot of reconstruction so they couldn't break the prison this time."

One suicide attack struck at the front gate of the Kandahar police headquarters, causing a lot of casualties, he said.

"There are a lot of civilian causalities," Wali Karzai said. "There are houses that have collapsed and businesses and people are still under the rubble. There was a wedding hall near the police headquarters and there was a wedding. A lot of casualties there from the explosions."

He said at least 30 people were killed and another 47 people were injured. Kandahar has a population of 800,000 and is the provincial capital of Kandahar province, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban movement.

U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are planning an offensive in Kandahar province this year, a follow-up to an ongoing military operation in neighboring Helmand province. Thousands of troops worked for three weeks to seize control of the district of Marjah from the Taliban.

The Marjah offensive is the first test of top Afghanistan commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy to rout insurgents from areas, set up new governance and rush in development aid in hopes of winning the loyalty of the residents.

Karzai gives in on election watchers

Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed Saturday to allow foreign observers to sit on an election commission, reversing a decree that sidestepped international oversight and drew U.S. criticism. Karzai's decision followed weeks of pressure from the international community to improve the legitimacy of elections. Karzai's August re-election was widely regarded as fraudulent and recent decision to do away with foreign monitors further agitated the United Nations.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 936 U.S. troops have died in the Afghanistan war. Identifications as reported by the military but not previously published:

Army Pvt. Nicholas S. Cook, 19, Hungry Horse, Mont.; small-arms fire March 7; Kunar province.

Army Spc. Alan N. Dikcis, 21, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; improvised explosive device March 5; Kandahar.

Marine Lance Cpl. Garrett W. Gamble, 20, Sugarland, Texas; combat Thursday; Helmand province.

Army Pfc. Jason M. Kropat, 25, White Lake, N.Y.; small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades Tuesday; Khost province.

Army Sgt. Anthony A. Paci, 30, Rockville, Md.; vehicle rollover March 4; Gereshk.

Army Sgt. Jonathan J. Richardson, 24, Bald Knob, Ark.; small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades Tuesday; Khost province.

Suicide bombings kill 30 in Taliban stronghold city 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 9:55pm]

    

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