26 February 2010

'Foreign people' targets of attacks that kill 18

KABUL, Afghanistan—I didn’t hear the blast though I was pounding coffee and cursing my internet access speed at the time The text alerts arrived with a few details and notice of a travel shutdown. One of my colleagues who phoned likened the sound to the “sonic booms” aircraft make.

Seventeen persons are reported dead after the suicide and car bomb attack near the Safi Landmark Hotel and another downtown guesthouse at 6:30 a.m. today. Gun battles afterwards lasted for hours. The dead include up to nine Indian nationals, two policemen, and three attackers. “The actual targets are foreign people,” said a spokesman for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility, reports The New York Times.

All of this on the day my calendar recognizes as the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad no less. Yikes. But the scarier thought may be that the familiarity of these attacks—14 were killed Jan. 18 in another suicide assault by at least five insurgents against a downtown shopping center, guest house and government offices—makes them less, rather than more, threatening.

Meanwhile, life is less safe for Afghans too, especially in the south, where civilian deaths pile up in the wake of the new U.S.-led military offensive that its designer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, claimed would reduce civilian casualties. New president, new general, and the same story is getting worse.

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