Hardly even making the headlines anymore. Meanwhile, the level of violence there is worse than at any time since the US invasion of 2001. This headline notes the suicide attack on a government target, but little information is given about the mass abduction (by whom exactly? what “gunmen”?) of villagers in Khost. From Reuters, July 17:
Suicide bomber hits Afghan government compound
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber killed a justice department chief in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Monday and gunmen kidnapped 40 villagers near the Pakistani border, officials said.
The suicide bomber struck inside a compound of government buildings in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province which has been the focus of heavy fighting between U.S.-led forces and militants in recent weeks.
“The three people killed apart from the suicide bomber are government officials including the head of justice department of Helmand,” said Mahaiuddin, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The compound stands opposite the police headquarters.
It was the second such attack in as many days targeting Afghan government offices. Five people were killed in a suicide strike on Sunday in the southeast town of Gardez.
Coalition forces earlier said they had killed four suspected al Qaeda fighters during a raid in Khost province, east of Kabul and once a stronghold of Osama bin Laden. Three other suspected al Qaeda members were captured during the raid.
Residents in the town said one of those killed was a cleric.
In a separate incident in Khost province, unidentified gunmen kidnapped 40 men from a village near the border with Pakistan overnight after a brief clash in which two women were wounded, Khost’s police chief Mohammad Ayoub told Reuters.
He said the gunmen infiltrated the area from Pakistan where they went back after seizing the men from Sabiri village, which is largely pro-government.
Foreign troops are engaged in a big offensive against militants in the south, where a NATO peacekeeping force will take over from the U.S.-led coalition at the end of the month.
Bulgaria said it was sending on Monday its first group of a 70-member contingent to Afghanistan to look after security at Kabul airport for five months starting in August.
“…The whole contingent will be in place in Kabul by the end of the month,” a defence ministry spokeswoman said.
After days of some of the heaviest fighting since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, coalition forces said they had destroyed a “safe house” of a Taliban commander in Sangin district in Helmand province.
The U.S. military said the raid was conducted on Sunday night, but they did not name the commander who was targeted.
A British military spokesman said fighting in Nawzad town, also in Helmand province and the scene of daily firefights, had eased after forces captured a hospital occupied by militants.
Also on Monday, three Afghan soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb hit their convoy in Girishk district of Helmand.
A former Afghan soldier who was working with coalition forces in Logar province south of Kabul was gunned down by two assailants on motorcycles as he walked home from work.
A member of parliament said Taliban fighters had taken control in a thinly populated southern district of Helmand.
The Taliban had occupied Garmser district in Helmand overnight without any resistance, Sher Mohammad Akhundzada said.
But the country’s defence minister said in an interview published on Monday that Afghan intelligence had learnt the Taliban’s command and control structure was fragmenting due to heavy losses and many commanders were fleeing to Pakistan.
“I think that in the next two or three months there will be some major changes,” General Abdul Rahim Wardak told the Financial Times.
Suicide bombers have been pretty busy in Afghanistan of late. From Reuters, July 12:
Afghanistan: Suicide attack on convoy kills child
A suicide attacker in a car detonated a bomb near a US military convoy in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing a boy who was playing nearby and wounding three other children, a provincial governor said.
Two American soldiers were slightly wounded in the attack, said Khost provincial Gov. Merajuddin Patan. The bomber also died.
Patan said the wounded children were in stable condition.
There was no immediate confirmation from the US military of the bombing, which came amid an upsurge in militant attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
See our last post on Afghanistan.