What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Terrorism hits Baghlan: Update I.

So, updating continued.
See below a list of those Wolesi Jirga members of whom I positively know at least that they were there at the scene of the blast, or even that they were wounded or killed.
Portraits via: Agence France Press/Getty Images (Mustafa Kazemi - source); www.jemb.org (the rest)
In yesterday's post regarding some of them I've indicated who comes from which province as a representative to the Wolesi Jirga, but for some of them I haven't yet done that, so here's a more complete list.
The deceased:
  • Mustafa Kazemi (Kabul - he was the leader of the delegation, a Shiite, his party was the multi-ethnic Eqtedar Milli - he was its leader; formerly joined Northern Alliance under the Taliban, later on was a commerce minister)
  • Sibghatullah Zaki (Takhar province - the New York Times named him as Qudrutallah Zaki)
  • Al-haj Sahiburrahman (Kunar province - The New York Times named him as Said Rahman Hehmat)
  • Engineer Abdul Mateen (Helmand province)
  • Haji Mohammad Arif Zarif (Kabul)
Wounded:
  • Shukria Eisakhail (from Baghlan province - written in the NY Times as Shukria Isakhel)
Was there, and is therefore possibly wounded:
  • Shukria Barakzai (Kabul - more on her later on, in another post, thanks to Péter Wagner; this Reuters report says explicitly that she was also wounded)
  • Haji Ahmad Aziz Naadim (from Herat)
That's eight members of the delegation of eighteen listed here. There are altogether thirteen dead or wounded among them, so that means there are at least six more wounded (counting Shukria Barakzai as among those known to be wounded). (9:00 a.m., Budapest local time)
Update (10:00 a.m.): While I was asleep at the wheel for the night, colleague of mine Péter Wagner made some good and important points regarding yesterday's attack. One of those is that at the end of September Baghlan district's police chief and three of his colleagues were killed. Somebody wanted some confusion or a change of leadership in the police ranks prior to a major attack? Might be a question to ask, Péter rightly suggests. Such a thing happens before an important delegation is to arrive - I'd say that could have been cause for caution for everyone. (His jeep was blown up on the way from Baghlan city to Pul-i-Khumri if I correctly decoded that from the source I linked to.)
Re: the selection of the attack site. Employment hopes are one factor I mentioned yesterday, but, as Péter Wagner notes, the ceremonious handing over could have been a good occasion for the Afghan government to advertise privatisation prospects (and investment opportunities in general, I would add) in the relatively stable north of Afghanistan. An attack like the one yesterday may very much affect investor decisions.
I remember having a conversation with a former leading World Bank economist who told me that nobody really considers it realistic for Afghanistan to industrialise (i.e. have any competitive industry I guess). Well, I was a bit upset by that claim. Yesterday's attack shows quite relevantly that it's a force like the Taliban that would perhaps most agree with that sort of statement. Shouldn't that make proponents of the absurdity of natural resource extraction/incl. cash crop agriculture-based good governance for the developing world wonder?
So Yesterday's attack came in New Baghlan within Baghlan city, an industrial area where you find e.g. a cheese factory, too, which started functioning with Dutch assistance, just a couple of hundred meters from the sugar factory outside of which the blast occurred.
Re: the selection of the target. Mustafa Kazimi himself was definitely a target, I would think. Out of eighteen members of the delegation, the delegation's leader was killed in the blast - that tells me the bomber might have made sure of getting close enough to him before setting off.
And Mustafa Kazemi was a member (and spokesperson) of the wide United National Front (Jabhe-ye-Motahed-e-Milli) coalition which is an alliance of strong figures that some would call "northern," and does indeed function as something like a reproduction of the Northern Alliance/United Islamic Front of earlier times. (The new formation was brought together in March this year.)
The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack but they did so explicitly referring to the civilian casualties. So I would think they just don't want the bad press, but will be happy to see the northern political coalition hurt and the northern areas' economic prospects deteriorating. That's actually true even if by chance this was some Hizb-i-Islami (G.H.) operation of an independent initiative.
Whoever was behind this attack, there will be a backlash in some form I would guess, as so many children were killed yesterday. Avoiding that backlash would be useful in working against receptivity to extremism among northern Pashtuns who tend to feel a bit under siege anyway, with Afghan history positioning them in the north in the role of the ugly invaders.
One more remark: a local militia commander, Amir Gul also died in the attack. Péter Wagner says this about him: "Among the dead is Amir Gul, who used to be a Jamiat commander, an anti-Taliban warlord. He wasn't allowed to run at the elections beacuse of his past (something that wasn't done to most warlords), so he probably didn't like the international forces and the government that much. In the summer of 2006 U.S. special forces raided his house and arrested him, but then handed him over to the Afghans, who released him."
To finish this update then, here's a photo of Mustafa Kazimi speaking in Baghlan, on the day of the attack that killed him (via NYT; photo by Sameer Najafizada, Associated Press).

Update at 14:00, p.m.: There is possibly a sixth Afghan Wolesi Jirga member who died by now. As soon as I find out who the MP in question is, I'll put out a new version of the list that I started this post with, in a new post. Meanwhile a particularly graphic piece of information seems to positively confirm that the blast was the work of a suicide bomber. AP reports, on the basis of a video they managed to get from some local source, that "The video also shows an Afghan man holding the head of what he claimed was the suicide attacker, shouting "Look at this (expletive)! This is the guy who destroyed everything! This is the guy who killed us!"."

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