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Taliban suicide bombers stalk Afghan voters

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U.S. military officials are braced for election violence in Afghanistan after Taliban insurgents threatened to unleash 20 suicide bombers in attacks during Thursday's election.

"We expect the election to go off mostly fine, but it may be hairy tomorrow if the Taliban really try to disrupt and discredit the election and government," said a U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

The suicide bombing threat, disclosed by the Taliban to local news media, could begin Thursday morning in an effort to dissuade voters from going to the polls in the election for president, a national parliament and local provincial councils.

The suicide bombing threat is being taken seriously because of the deadly car bomb blast Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least eight people and wounded more than 55.

Three days earlier, a suicide bomber attacked the gate at NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing seven.

The military official said that the bombing took place along a public road by the gate to the International Security Assistance Forces that is very difficult to secure. The attacker in that blast had official ISAF passes that allowed him to drive the car close to the gate, the official said.

The bombing also damaged some of the hardened defenses to the area and is believed to have been the equivalent of 1,100 pounds of high explosives.

Australian Maj. Graeme Henley, ISAF spokesman, would not comment directly on the Taliban suicide bombing threat but stated in an e-mail that ISAF's role is to support Afghan security forces in securing the elections.

"The Afghan National Security Forces, supported by ISAF, are postured to respond to attempts by insurgents to disrupt a peaceful and fair election," he said. "These forces will go where they need to operate to secure the elections."

This article is taken from Bill Gertz's next "Inside the Ring" column.