Monday, April 18, 2011

The assassination today of the top law enforcement official in Kandahar province signals a dangerous escalation of Taliban violence and tactical sophistication that has chilled Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

The provincial police chief, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, died inside his headquarters in the early afternoon, the victim of a suicide bomber who somehow breached what is supposed to be one of the most heavily guarded places in the city.

Over the last six months, American-led forces have concentrated on wresting rural districts near the city from the Taliban, and NATO officials have insisted they have turned a corner in disabling the insurgency. But their operations have been accompanied by a surge of suicide attacks on local police in the provincial capital, killings of Afghan officials and threats to anyone working for the government.

In an interview earlier this week, the Afghan-Canadian provincial governor, Tooryalai Wesa, worried out loud that the Taliban was switching from battles with foreign forces to targeted attacks by militants who can blend into the crowds in the city’s serpentine alleyways and markets.

That a human bomb strapped with explosives could penetrate the headquarters compound, where every man entering is usually patted down, is a devastating blow to both the Afghan and NATO attempts to demonstrate they are in control.

Mr. Mujahid had survived three other Taliban assassination attempts in the last few months, including an all-out assault by insurgents who shelled the police compound and blew themselves up at its gates.


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