28 January 2011

Nine killed in attack on Kabul supermarket; "Blackwater security" was target, says Taliban

Military vehicles operated by the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan domestic intelligence agency, were poised Saturday outside my guest house, which is near the Parliament and next door to residence of the second vice president, suggesting there is concern about new violence in Kabul after Friday’s suicide attack on a supermarket that killed nine people.

KABUL, Afghanistan—Four hours after I left a downtown Kabul supermarket Friday, it was attacked by a grenade-tossing suicide bomber who detonated himself, killing nine persons, including five women and a child, reports The New York Times.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, explaining it was targeting the Afghan head of "Blackwater security company," now Xe Services. The entire first floor of the recently renovated supermarket was destroyed.

The store, part of the Finest Supermarket chain, is located in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood near the British, Canadian and Pakistani embassies. Finest stores cater to western and southeast Asian workers, as well affluent Afghans. Four of the deceased were Filipino women and four others were Afghans. At least 17 persons were wounded.

The head of security for my employer was near the supermarket at the attack, but I read about the incident in online reports by Reuters, Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian UK, Telegraph (UK) and Fox News before security texted employees with the basic details.

“Aren’t you comforted by the speed with which we were informed?” I asked some colleagues over tea in the kitchen of our guest house.

“Oh yeah.”

“Now let’s get this straight,” I said, gesturing to one of my mates, “you missed the attack in Puli Surkh (our neighborhood in Kabul in which a suicide bomber on a motorcycle on Jan. 12 blew himself up alongside a bus, killing two people and wounding 36) by 15 minutes…”

“Five minutes,” he indicated.

“And last May, you and I came within 60 meters and a stone wall of an explosion that killed 18 people, right? Now at what point do we have to concede that we are just flat stupid for staying here?"

Friday’s attack may represent a strategic shift in the war, in which Afghan civilians have paid the heaviest price, reports Julius Cavendish for Time. “This kind of attack will happen again," warns security analyst Sami Kovanen: "It's a new kind of attack—in many ways the first direct attack against the whole international community, against civilians."

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