Taliban attacks target Afghans working on U.S. projects

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Taliban has begun regularly targeting U.S. government contractors in southern Afghanistan, stepping up use of a tactic that is rattling participating firms.

Within the past month, there have been at least five attacks in Helmand and Kandahar provinces against employees of U.S. Agency for International Development contractors who are running agricultural projects, building roads, maintaining power plants and working with local officials. The USAID "implementing partners," as they are known, employ mainly Afghans, who are overseen by foreigners.

A suicide car bomb that exploded Thursday evening outside a compound used by Western contractors in Kandahar city was the latest and deadliest attack. The blast killed at least four Afghan security guards and wounded 16 others, including at least two Americans. The compound houses USAID contractors, including Chemonics International, the Louis Berger Group and the Central Asia Development Group, according to U.S. officials.

At least one company working in Kandahar, Bethesda, Md.-based DAI, evacuated some employees to Kabul after the attack, the officials said.

On Tuesday, Hosiy Sahibzada, 24, an Afghan who worked for DAI, was shot and killed as she walked home from the office in Kandahar City. Also Tuesday, an Afghan employee of Arlington, Va.-based International Relief & Development, was shot and killed in Helmand province's Garmsir area.

In late March, two men wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles attacked a USAID contractor's office building in Lashkar Gah, Helmand's provincial capital. The fifth incident also occurred in late March, south of Lashkar Gah. A convoy of Chemonics employees was the target of a bomb-and-gunfire ambush that killed three Afghans.

On Dec. 15, a DAI facility was bombed in Gardez, killing five Afghan security guards.

Michelle Millard, a Chemonics spokeswoman, said the firm could not comment, citing the "fluid security situation."

A spokesman for DAI, Steven O'Connor, said: "We're constantly evaluating and adjusting our security procedures in response to events on the ground, and that's what we're doing right now in Kandahar."

Taliban attacks target Afghans working on U.S. projects 04/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 17, 2010 12:00am]

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