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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Terrorism hits Baghlan

There has been a huge blast at a sugar factory in Baghlan city, in Baghlan province. There are a lot of dead, including some members of the Afghan parliament, as well as a lot of wounded.
To start with a security trends overview for context, in a recent post on Hungary's role in Baghlan province (running the PRT there) I have even drawn attention to the UN's latest half-year security review showing an amelioration of the security situation in some areas of Baghlan for this year. I noted that the half-year review took developments into account only till the summer, so the generally riskier summer period could perhaps have made that picture less unambiguously one of improvement. But it was during the latter part of the autumn that one saw a marked change of trends for the worse. Péter Wagner has posted on October 23 reflecting on an October 17 IED-blast that hit a Hungarian convoy in Da Hanai Ghori district, and I noted in a comment to that post with discomfort how the Taliban dedicated an unusually significant part of their usual exaggerating ranting about their achievements to that incident - Péter Wagner quoted Zabiyullah Mujahid (one of the Taliban's spokespersons using this nom de guerre) as saying:
" Claiming responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the blast was followed by exchange of fire that lasted for around one hour.
Four foreign troopers were killed while several tanks were destroyed in the battle, the spokesman claimed. He said the foreign forces launched house to house search after the clash and detained several locals. "
On October 29 then two rockets hit the area close to the Hungarian base in Pul-i-Khumri. It's not clear if the Hungarian base was the target as such, as there are e.g. local government buildings nearby, but it definitely was significant, as two Hungarian ministers (defence and health) departed Pul-i-Khumri and the Hungarian camp there shortly before that. In one of the more informative articles over the incident, it was hinted that as many as five rockets were set up (with a timer) to be fired at their target. And some drew a connection between this attack and a clash of local police forces and "rebels" in Narin district a couple of days earlier, in which several rebels were claimed to have died. And Péter Wagner noted some sources that surprisingly mentioned a drastic upsurge of the number of incidents in Baghlan from September on, as well as that Hungarian units came under IED attacks thrice during the month of October. Some of this wasn't exactly closely covered in the Hungarian media prior to that.
So things were definitely worsening.
And then came the blast outside the sugar factory in Baghlan city. The reported death toll varies from source to source. Some talk of over a hundred, some say 28. This all will surely change still, so perhaps there's no point in noting these numbers yet. It has to be noted, however, that five members of the Afghan parliament were killed. There are parliamentarians among the wounded as well, and it seems to be clear that they (a delegation of eighteen of them) were the targets of the attack at the ceremonious handing over of the sugar factory which could have given central Afghan institutions some positive limelight, that was brutally blacked out by what was possibly an attack by a suicide bomber, as some Hungarian media sources are reporting. (20:00 p.m.)
Update at 20:30 p.m.: Shukria Barakzai, a Wolesi Jirga member from Kabul is saying that thirteen of the eighteen members of parliament who visited Baghlan are either dead or "in danger."
One of the Wolesi Jirga members killed is named by the news source linked to above to be Sayed Mustafa Kazimi, formerly a commerce minister and Northern Alliance member.
The report highlights the tensions between the Tajik (Tajik/Ismaili) dominated provincial leadership and the mainly Pashtun forces of Hizb-i-Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar).
Meanwhile I should point out that the incident comes while supposedly there might be a security operation (Operation Firm Hand, or "Erős Kéz" in Hungarian) going on in the province that one doesn't hear much about at the moment.
Update at 22:30 p.m. (Budapest local time): this article from Index (in Hungarian) makes it clear that the sugar factory was recently renovated. The handing-over ceremony was organised to mark the coming resumption of work. Jobs are very much sought after in the province, I'd add, so this would have been significant indeed. Baghlan's governor has specifically asked for such projects from Hungary for example, that could provide more employment opportunities for locals.
CNN lists the names of the rest of the Afghan lawmakers killed beside Mustafa Kazimi. The four of them are, on the basis of a presidential statement, Abdul Mateen, Alhaj Sahibur Rahman, Hajji Muhammad Aref Zarif and Sebghatullah Zaki.
Al Jazeera says the parliamentary delegation was made up basically of members of the Wolesi Jirga's finance committee. They also cite Aziz Ahmed Nadem, an MP who survived the bombing, that according to him, the blast was the work of a suicide bomber who approached on foot. They also report that Mustafa Kazemi was the leader of the delegation.
Meanwhile, I could look up that Sebghatullah Zaki was from Takhar province (to the north of Baghlan), Alhaj Sahibur Rahman was from Kunar province, Haji Muhammad Aref Zarif was from Kabul, and Abdul Mateen (if it's Engineer Abdul Matin indeed) was from Helmand.
I'll stop updating today, but in the coming days I'll come back to discussing this incident still.
Added remark: I'll do that in a minute, to update this post in a new one.

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