The governor of Afghanistan’s troubled Helmand province on Tuesday escaped unharmed from an insurgent ambush and gun battle that left two attackers dead, his office said, while 10 people were killed and 30 others injured when a truck carrying road workers struck a bomb in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
Mohammad Gulab Mangal was returning to Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern province, after an official visit to Sangin, a pocket of some of the worst fighting in Afghanistan, when his motorcade came under fire from insurgents. “The security forces returned fire and killed two of the armed attackers. Their bodies were left on the ground,” a statement from his office said.
Pictures released with the statement showed at least four bullet holes in Mangal’s armoured vehicle. Helmand is one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous provinces and a major focus for US-led NATO operations in the war-torn country. Mangal has survived numerous previous attempts on his life. The attack came on the same day that the deputy chief of Afghanistan’s spy agency, Ahmad Zia, escaped an apparent attempt on his life in Kabul when guards shot and killed a man who tried to ram a bomb-laden car into his motorcade.
The truck incident happened in rural Panjwayi district in the province of Kandahar, which is the birthplace of the Taliban and one of the most violent parts of the country, frequently hit by major attacks. “Ten dead, 30 injured have been sent to the hospital,” said Abdul Qayoum Pukhla, provincial health director of Kandahar. The bombing was confirmed by Panjwayi’s district chief Fazluddin Agha. “Yes, there was an explosion killing and injuring road workers but I don’t have the exact number of casualties,” said Agha.
One survivor who did not want to be named said there were a total of 40 people on board the truck. People working on government projects such as road-building in Afghanistan are frequently targeted by the Taliban and other insurgents fighting for nearly 10 years against US-led foreign troops and the Western-backed administration. Last week, 36 Afghans were killed when the Taliban attacked a road construction company in the eastern province of Paktia, triggering a gunfight that lasted for hours.
The attack came amid the start of the Taliban’s spring offensive, which has now seen four serious attacks in as many days. Elsewhere, the deputy chief of Afghanistan’s spy agency escaped an apparent attempt on his life after guards shot and killed a man who tried to ram a bomb-laden car into his motorcade, police said. Ahmad Zia, deputy chief of National Directorate of Security (NDS), was being driven to work when his bodyguards noticed a car was trying to overtake his motorcade.
They tried to stop the car before opening fire and killing the driver. It was later discovered that the car was full of explosives. And in northern Afghanistan, four children were killed and one was wounded in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif after touching a mine they found on their way to school, police spokesman Sheikh Jan Durrani said. After decades of war in Afghanistan, there is a large amount of unexploded ordnance lying around in the country and such incidents are relatively frequent, often killing civilians.
In the west, the crew of a French fighter jet escaped uninjured after their plane crashed 100 kilometres west of Farah. A French army spokesman ruled out enemy fire as a cause of the crash and an investigation was under way. There are around 130,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan, of which 90,000 are from the United States, fighting an insurgency waged by the Taliban and other militant groups. Limited withdrawals from a handful of relatively peaceful areas are due to start in July ahead of the planned end of foreign combat operations in 2014.
Germany-based militant nabbed in Afghanistan
KABUL – NATO said Tuesday that a Moroccan alleged Al-Qaeda operative based in Germany had been captured in Afghanistan. The man, whose name has not been disclosed, is described as a “foreign fighter facilitator” and NATO said he was caught during a security operation in Zabul province, southern Afghanistan, on May 8.
“After his capture the facilitator provided details about his personal travel from Germany,” the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. “He also observed foreigners from many countries converging in Pakistan to conduct attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan. “The combined force found passports and identification cards from France, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia amongst 10 insurgents killed during the operation.”
The military said the suspect confessed to being approached while previously in Iran to become a suicide bomber but had declined “because of his goal to take part in the global jihad.” The war in Afghanistan has been raging for nearly 10 years and started after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan on May 2. Alleged Al-Qaeda fighters are still regularly captured and killed in Afghanistan. AFP