Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Afghan deputy spy chief killed in blast

INCREASED BRUTALITY: The brazen attack in broad daylight outside a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan highlights just how treacherous the Taliban has become

AFP , KABUL

The Afghan government organized funeral preparations yesterday for its deputy spy chief, who was assassinated in a suicide attack that laid bare the threat from an increasingly brazen Taliban.

Abdullah Laghmani was killed with 23 other people when a suicide bomber walked into a crowd of government officials and civilians leaving a mosque in the capital of his home province Laghman, in the east, on Wednesday.

The attack in broad daylight, outside a place of worship during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims are fasting showed the increasing brutality of the insurgent militia whose reach is expanding into previously peaceful areas.

Eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the former Taliban regime, Afghanistan has become increasingly treacherous.

Already, this year has been a record-breaking year for the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan and elections last month have been heavily tainted by allegations of fraud and fears of catastrophically low turnout.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is leading a laborious count with 47.3 percent of the vote from 60 percent of polling stations, paid tribute to Laghmani and ordered the intelligence agency to organize a funeral.

“The president instructed a commission headed by the director general of the National Directorate of Security ... besides helping the wounded and condoling their families, to organize a deserving funeral ceremony,” his office said.

Laghmani’s body had been transferred to the morgue at the military hospital in the Afghan capital with the funeral delayed until today so that his son could return from abroad, one government official said.

The Taliban, which has regrouped since the US-led invasion with help from safe havens in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack and said Laghmani had been the target.

Britain announced the death yesterday of yet another soldier killed in a bomb attack in southern Helmand Province, which is the epicenter of Afghanistan’s poppy-growing industry to make opium and heroin and a Taliban stronghold.

More than 300 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan so far this year. Most deaths have been caused by improvised explosive devices — small, concealed and remotely detonated bombs that have become the Taliban weapon of choice.

In southern province Kandahar, NATO and Afghan troops captured a Taliban militant allegedly involved in several IED attacks, the military said.

In the US, which contributes around two-thirds of the 100,000 Western troops in Afghanistan, a growing number of experts doubt the war can be won as US President Barack Obama contemplates a further troop increase.

Nearly six in 10 Americans are opposed to the war in Afghanistan, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released this week.

“The similarities to Vietnam are ominous,” wrote Wesley Clark, a former NATO commander, in the New York Daily News.

“There, too, an insurgency was led and supported from outside the borders of the state in which our troops were fighting. There, too, sanctuaries across international borders stymied US military efforts,” the retired general said.

At talks in Paris focused on a path ahead in Afghanistan after the ­elections, European, US and NATO leaders said Western troops, which now number more than 100,000 in the country, would stay until security is achieved.

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