Tue, Dec 02, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Kabul to revamp security as Taliban step up attacks

BLOODY SUNDAY:In one of the attacks, Taliban militants killed a South African family in Kabul, claiming that the charity compound they were in was a secret Christian base

AFP and AP, KABUL

Afghan National Army soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Kabul on Nov. 23.

Photo: Reuters

Facing an intensified Taliban insurgency, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani plans to fire senior civilian and military leaders in the country’s most volatile provinces to reinvigorate the battle against militants, officials have told reporters.

A string of attacks in the capital over three days that killed four foreigners — including a British embassy employee — and several Afghan civilians led Kabul police boss General Mohammad Zahir Zahir to tender his resignation.

However, officials yesterday said he had been reinstated in a bid to help quell the outbreak of violence.

“Based on the request of high-ranking officials and in order to avoid disruption of security affairs, General Zahir was asked to continue his duties,” Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanakzai said. “His resignation was rejected and he continues his duties as the police chief of Kabul.”

Zahir Zahir had been under pressure due to attacks in the capital targeting foreign guesthouses, embassy vehicles, US troops and a female member of parliament, as NATO ends its 13-war in Afghanistan.

Kabul has been hit by at least nine attacks in the past two weeks.

The latest Taliban strike in Kabul killed a South African father running an education charity and his two teenage children, a family spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Werner Groenewald, 46, his 17-year-old son, Jean-Pierre, and 15-year-old daughter, Rode, were killed in Saturday’s attack on the compound of Partnership in Academics and Development, a small, California-based education group.

Werner’s wife, Hannelie, a doctor, was working at a hospital when the attack began, said her sister, Riana du Plessis, who is acting as family spokeswoman.

Explosions and gunfire erupted for three hours as Afghan elite commandos battled three militants, who were eventually killed.

“Their house was burned down,” Du Plessis said from South Africa. “Hannelie went back there this morning to try to recover some of their goods, but there was nothing to recover. She lost everything: her children, her husband, her cats, her dogs.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that the compound was that of a secret Christian missionary group. Du Plessis and friends of the Groenewalds in Kabul said the family were strict Christians, but not missionaries.

“In the midst of this unprovoked attack, Partnership in Academics and Development remains committed to providing educational resources for Afghan citizens,” the charity said in a message on its Web site.

A family Web site described how the Groenewalds moved to Kabul with their two children in 2002.

It said that Werner was previously a Christian pastor in Pretoria, while Hannelie is a qualified doctor who answered a call “to help the sick in Afghanistan.”

On Thursday last week, the Taliban struck at a foreign guesthouse, wounding a guard, and a suicide bomber targeted a British embassy vehicle in a blast that killed six people.

Militants in the southern province of Helmand in the past week also got inside Camp Bastion, a major NATO base handed over only last month.

At least five Afghan soldiers died in the fighting before order was restored on Saturday, said Ghulam Farooq Parwani, a senior Afghan army commander at the camp.

Ghani on Sunday described the Taliban as “a small minority who want to hijack the nation,” adding: “We won’t allow that.”

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