Sunday, November 29, 2009

Taliban Militants Fire Rockets on Crowded Bazaar Northeast of Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants fired rockets on a bazaar northeast of Kabul on Monday, near the site of a meeting between French soldiers and local tribal leaders, and police officials said 10 Afghan civilians were killed and 28 wounded.

NATO troops reported that 4 civilians had been killed and 40 wounded. No troops were reported wounded or killed in the attack. Soldiers helped to ferry the wounded to local hospitals and to a nearby NATO base for medical care, a spokesman said.

The attack took place in the Tagab District, about 35 miles from Kabul in a mountainous area of Kapisa Province, a little after noon, when merchants and customers thronged the bazaar, exchanging goods for the week. The area, which is mixed Pashtun and Tajik, has been under pressure from local Taliban forces, who are in nearby valleys.

“The Taliban fired the rockets from Badrab, where they have a base,” said the deputy police chief, Haji Mohammed Akbar. “They are strong there,” he said.

Christophe Prazuck, a spokesman for the French military, said the attack came as a French general and other French officers met with tribal leaders in a building a few hundred yards from the market. He said it was unclear whether militants had singled out that gathering, or whether they had aimed at the market.

“They were explaining what they were doing, what they intended to do in terms of development projects, and they wanted to know what the villages needed for the following month,” Mr. Prazuck said about the meeting.

Mr. Akbar said he did not think that the attackers had intended to strike the French. It was relatively easy for the Taliban to hit the French base, but the militants seemed to aim at the bazaar and civilians, he said. “There were no French forces in the bazaar at the time,” he added.

Hours earlier in the Arghandab District, near the southern city of Kandahar, local officials said Taliban attackers raided a police station, killing eight officers and wounding three. Three other police officers in the station disappeared, and a spokesman for the Kandahar governor’s office, who asked not to be identified by name, said he was not sure if the officers who disappeared had a connection to the Taliban.

There have been a number of cases in which local police officers are actually Taliban fighters who help to set up attacks.

The Kandahar provincial police chief, Zardar Muhammed Zazai, said the raid was under investigation.

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