IN THIS ISSUE
- Afghan parliament holds first session
- Terrorist activity continues to be at high level, including suicide attacks
- NATO formally agrees to an expansion of ISAF to the southern provinces
- The US Government announces a reduction in its forces in Afghanistan
- AREU publishes analysis of September elections
Continuing the pattern of previous months, there have been a number of suicide attacks in December. Two of these were aimed at International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces. This may be intended to undermine support within European states for the planned expansion of ISAF to the southern provinces in the spring. The specific incidents have included the following:
- On 4th December, a suicide bomber killed himself and a civilian in Kandahar when he detonated explosives aimed at a US military convoy.
- Three passers-by were injured on 11th December when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a convoy of US troops in Kandahar.
- On 14th December, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a park near the shrine in Mazar-i-Sharif. There were no other casualties.
- Two people were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Kabul on 16th December. The incident occurred near the building where the parliament was due to meet on 19th December and damaged an ISAF vehicle.
- Three Italian soldiers attached to ISAF were slightly injured on 20th December when a car drew up alongside their vehicle and blew up as they were travelling into Herat from the airport. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
ISAF forces were also targeted through other attacks. These included the following:
- On December 12th, three Canadian ISAF soldiers were injured, along with a foreign journalist, when a road-side bomb exploded close to their vehicle near the town of Maywand, to the west of Kandahar.
- Two ISAF soldiers were injured on 26th December when a bomb blast hit their vehicle on a main road in the northern province of Baghlan. Two civilians were also wounded.
A further incident, on 12th December, in which a donkey carrying a land mine on its back exploded near the vehicle of an aid agency in Faizabad in north-eastern Afghanistan would also appear to have been aimed at the international presence. There were no other casualties.
In another, relatively new development, terrorist acts have been organized with the apparent aim of discouraging parents from sending their children to school and teachers from teaching. Those administering education services have also been targeted. The incidents have included the following:
- On 14th December, the head of a district education department and a school official were kidnapped in Giro district in the southern province of Ghazni. Their bodies were found on the following day.
- A teacher was shot dead in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province on 16th December. He was dragged from the classroom and shot at the school gate. He had received a series of warning letters from the Taliban to stop teaching girls.
- On 17th December, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on students leaving school in Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province. One student and a guard were killed.
The police have continued to be a major target of terrorist attacks, aimed to undermine morale and recruitment. The specific incidents, many of which have been in Helmand Province, have included the following:
- On 3rd December, a police officer was killed, and five others wounded, when their vehicle was ambushed in Helmand Province.
- A police officer and two civilians were killed on 5th December in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province when gunmen opened fire from a passing car.
- Two policemen were killed and two others injured when a police patrol was ambushed on 9th December in Baghnai district of Helmand Province.
- Seven policemen were killed on 9th December when about 90 Taliban fighters attacked a police post in Garmser district of Helmand Province.
- On the same day, another police officer was killed in Deh Rawood district, in the southern province of Zabul.
- On 17th December, three policemen were killed in an attack on a police checkpoint outside Kandahar.
- On 19th December, three police officers were killed in the eastern province of Kunar.
- Four policemen were killed and eight wounded on 29th December when a bomb exploded near their checkpoint in Helmand Province.
Other government officials have also been targeted. On 3rd December, the head of administration for Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar Province was killed, along with two security officers, in a bomb attack. Three other policemen were injured.
A different pattern is apparent in an incident on 4th December in which a member of parliament for Laghman Province was killed in a gunfight, along with at least two supporters. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear but it immediately provoked widespread protests and raised concerns about the vulnerability of members of parliament to assassination as a consequence of the clause in the electoral law which provides that, in the event of the death of a member of parliament, the candidate of the same gender with the next number of votes will take his or her place. In response, the Afghan cabinet suspended this particular clause on 12th December, pending an investigation into the M.P's death, and have not allocated his seat.
Protests were also in evidence when hundreds of people were reported to have clashed with police on 16th December in Charkh district of Logar Province, to the south of Kabul. A riot would appear to have broken out in response to the arrest of local religious leaders accused of planning to ambush a police convoy.
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