Suicide attack kills 41 at Afghan mosque

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The deadliest such attack took place last December in Kabul, with 56 Shiite Muslim worshippers killed and 160 wounded. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based Sunni Muslim group, claimed responsibility.

On Sept. 4, 25 civilians were killed and more than 35 wounded in an attack on a mosque in Nangarhar province. That attack targeted a district chief as he and a group of people were heading from the mosque to a cemetery. The district chief survived but his son did not.

The attacks on Afghan officials indicate that the Taliban are trying to exploit NATO plans to withdraw its roughly 100,000 troops from the country by the end of 2014, leaving security in the hands of the 352,000-strong Afghan army and police. There are serious questions about the ability of the newly trained security forces to combat the insurgency, which even the U.S.-led coalition has not been able to stamp out.

At the same time, the spate of so-called insider attacks has undermined trust between international troops and Afghan army and police, further weakened public support for the war in NATO countries and increased calls for earlier withdrawals.

On Friday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths of two American service members in southern Uruzgan province the day before.

In an emailed statement, Taliban spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi said a member of the Afghan security forces shot the two men and then escaped to join the insurgents.

Maj. Lori Hodge, spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Thursday that authorities were trying to determine whether the latest attacker was a member of the Afghan security forces or an insurgent who donned a government uniform.

It was the second suspected insider attack in two days. On Wednesday, two British service members and an Afghan policeman were gunned down in Helmand province.

Before Thursday’s assault, 53 foreigners attached to the U.S.-led coalition had been killed in attacks by Afghan soldiers or police this year.

Associated Press writer Slobodan Lekic in Kabul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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