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Letter From Kabul: Ever More Extreme Kind Of Suicide Bomber Targets Spy Chief

Khalid is a U.S. favorite
Khalid is a U.S. favorite
Jean-Paul Mari

KABUL - "No, he was not hiding the bomb in his turban or in his briefs," a high-ranking western military officer tells me. I look at him: his face a bit pale and an uncomfortable demeanor; perhaps, despite his familiarity with the ferocity of war, shocked by the new method used in the attempted assassination of Asadullah Kalhid, the head of the Afghan secret services (NDS).

The Taliban had been dreaming of killing him for a while now. In May 2011, a suicide bomber had blown up his car during a visit in Kandahar, in the southern Pashtun region. But Kalhid survived every attempt against his life, to the great displeasure of the Taliban.

It goes without saying that the head of the Afghan secret services is now their mortal nemesis. The 43-year-old is famous for his efficiency and his obsession to track down insurgents, as well as for his brutality. He has the reputation of preferring brutal questioning methods – torture, to put it simply. And to cross the Taliban even more, he is close to President Karzaï and a U.S. favorite.

A suicide bomber is both a simple and terrible weapon. A man, ready to die with his victim, wearing an explosive belt underneath his clothes, can easily reach his target – a meeting, a speech, a public event, a convoy. The attacker approaches his target, with his hand on the detonator… and it is already too late. Everyone is blown into pieces, the vehicle is lifted into the air and weapons and bulletproof jackets worn by soldiers are rendered useless.

This technique has long become mainstream in Afghanistan – it’s terrible to have to write things like that. The kamikaze who haunted our imagination, these Japanese suicide-bombers on their fighter jets, the aircraft-carriers in flames in the Pacific Ocean – we believed that all this was unreal, a thing of the past, right? Well, not at all. Nowadays, the kamikaze, the sacrifice of a human life, is a tool of war, a human grenade, to be used alternatively with Kalashnikovs and RPG rocket launchers.

“Peace be upon you”

It is worth noting than this particular suicide bomber was a “peace messenger!” This was the fourth time he had come, in the name of the Taliban, to attend talks with the government. "As-salamu alaykum" (“Peace be upon you”) and every time he came, the man would pay close attention to the tight security measures set up for important events in Kabul. The fourth time, the man entered this residence in Kabul – guarded to the teeth – and went through every control and body search, from his turban to his feet.

It was a turban that killed Burhannuddin Rabbani, the former president of Afghanistan, chosen by the government to hold peace talks with the Taliban. Here, peace is a dangerous thing!

Once inside, it was not easy for the suicide-bomber to identify his target, two men were seated at his reserved table. Luckily for him, the telephone rang and the head of the secret services picked up and said his name. The kamikaze jumped on him and blew himself up. Asadullah Khalid suffered severe stomach wounds but did not die. He was evacuated to a foreign hospital to receive the best care as possible. Not dead? With a kamikaze only a meter away from him? The explosive might not have been powerful enough.

The suicide-bomber was from Pakistan. There, a like-minded surgeon had opened his belly, slightly lifted his stomach, and set a pocket full of explosives, right above his guts, with a small detonator. He then stitched it all back up.

The suicide-bomber only had to wait for his belly to heal, go to Kabul, go through the body search – which he passed easily – and jump on Khalid with his finger on the detonator… to show him what the Taliban make of the peace process.

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