Blasts rock Kandahar city killing 9, as Afghan militants fight back against coalition pressure

By Mirwais Khan, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

9 killed, 26 wounded in 2nd day of Kandahar blasts

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Two explosions killed nine people and wounded two dozen others in Kandahar, the second day of deadly blasts in the southern Afghan city where Taliban insurgents are fighting back against U.S. and Afghan forces pushing into areas long held by insurgents.

A car bomb and a second, smaller blast killed nine people Tuesday, including one Afghan policeman, Kandahar provincial health director Qayum Pokhla said. Police officers were also among the 26 people wounded.

Three explosions just minutes apart killed three Afghan police officers in the city Monday night. When police gathered to tend to the wounded after the first blast, two more explosions occurred, said Zelmai Ayubi, spokesman for the provincial governor of Kandahar.

Noor Ahman, deputy mayor in Kandahar, was killed in an insurgent attack Monday and later in the day Habibullah Aghonzada, a former district chief in Arghistan, was gunned down by assailants as he prayed at a packed mosque.

NATO described the two as “dedicated public servants who sought to improve the lives of their fellow countrymen.”

The military alliance announced Tuesday an insurgent involved in the kidnapping of a New York Times reporter was captured in northern Afghanistan. The unidentified militant was apprehended by Afghan and coalition security forces in Takhar province overnight Monday, a statement said.

The insurgent was linked to senior Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan, NATO said. He “terrorized the local populace,” and targeted police and local officials in attacks, it said.

Journalist Stephen Farrell and his translator were taken hostage in September 2009 when they went to cover a NATO airstrike of two hijacked fuel tankers that killed scores of Afghan civilians. British commandos rescued Farrell in a raid, but the translator and a British commando were killed in the operation.

Separately, NATO reported Tuesday a service member died in a homemade bomb explosion in the south. The coalition did not disclose the nationality or provide additional details of the death.

Control of Kandahar, the Taliban movement’s birthplace, is seen as key to reversing Taliban momentum in the war. Afghan and NATO forces are engaged in a major operation to improve security in and around Kandahar to keep insurgents from staging attacks inside the city. Early Tuesday in Arghandab district outside Kandahar, NATO said it captured a Taliban leader suspected of coordinating attacks and arming Taliban fighters.

Trying to keep their grip on their stronghold, the Taliban are fighting with both weapons and rhetoric.

“America is operating in the districts of Kandahar, but the result will be that they will walk out with blood-filled, empty hands,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef said. “They could not achieve victory in nearly a decade … This shows they never will.”

The NATO coalition is fighting an uphill battle to win the allegiance of people in Kandahar.

“When only the Taliban were ruling our land there was peace and tranquility. Since the Americans have set foot on our land, we don’t have work and our health is no better,” said Naseebullah Ghamjam, a 38-year-old laborer. “All we have seen is that Americans have constructed exceptionally massive compounds for themselves.”

Azizullah Saiyal, 29, who drives heavy vehicles in Zhari district outside of Kandahar, said citizens have little trust in the international community or Afghan government officials.

“We hear that millions and billions of dollars are coming in our country, but where does all of the money go?” he asked. “I believe these years of war and loss of innocent lives makes it obvious that war can never bring in peace. We should start looking for alternatives now.”

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