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AFGHANISTAN: Effects of suicide attacks extend far beyond the grave
Samiullah, 10, says he left school to work to feed his family after his father was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul
KABUL, 16 September 2007 (IRIN) - Wahidullah, 35, died in June after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car packed with explosives near his auto-mechanic shop on Puli Charkhi Road in the eastern outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Ostensibly, the attack was targeting a convoy of NATO-led international forces that was passing down the road when it killed or wounded five Afghan civilians. [Read this story in Arabic]
Wahidullah has left behind a family of five, desperately struggling to make ends meet.
His eldest son, Samiullah, 10, now works with his uncle in a car repair garage. He dropped out of school to earn money to feed his destitute family.
“After my father died, I am the breadwinner of my family,” Samiullah said, adding that for his 10-hour daily job he gets 100 Afghans (about US$2).
The boy’s mother, uneducated and illiterate, adds a little to the family income by doing home-based tailoring and needlework for local customers – a job her young daughters will soon grow into.
Their story is one that typifies how families struggle to cope with the loss of the head of a household in Afghanistan. This can happen in many ways, but in recent times, it has increasingly been by way of suicide attacks.
Rise in suicide attacks
|Suicide attacks traumatise entire communities, undermine popular faith in institutions of the state, provoke responses that limit freedoms, and intimidate populations into a sense that hopes of peace rest only with the providers of violence. |
Suicide attacks are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, with the first being the assassination of military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on 9 September 2001, according to a UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report released on 9 September 2007 entitled Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan
The report goes on to say that only four suicide attacks occurred in 2003 and 2004, but 17 occurred in 2005 and 123 in 2006. In the first eight months of 2007, 125 suicide attacks have killed over 120 civilians, establishing suicide missions as an integral part of insurgent strategy.
In addition, in the first six months of this year, 36 would-be suicide attackers were prevented from detonating their explosives, the report said, adding that Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand and Khost were the top four provinces in terms of numbers of suicide attacks. Road of death
Most of the suicide attacks in Kabul have happened on Puli Charkhi Road, where Wahidullah was killed and along which convoys of Afghan and international forces frequently travel.
The newly asphalted road connects Kabul to its eastern province of Nangarhar, which has a long porous border with neighbouring Pakistan. According to the UNAMA report, most suicide attackers originate from madrasas (religious schools) in Pakistani border areas.
Afghan officials say suicide attackers enter Kabul from the east and detonate their explosives mostly on Puli Charkhi Road for fear of being spotted and arrested as they drive into the capital.
Photo: Akmal Dawi/IRIN
|Saeed Afzal, a bicycle repair man on Puli Charkhi Road, says his business is down because of suicide attacks|
“Every morning when I leave home for my job I wonder if I will return and see my family,” Saeed Afzal, a bicycle repair man on Puli Charkhi Road, said.
Several shopkeepers on this main road told IRIN that customers have been avoiding traveling on it for fear of being caught in a suicide attack. As a result, their businesses have suffered. Civilians bear the brunt
Tom Koenigs, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said in his introduction to the recent suicide attacks report that the reason why such attacks were being highlighted in the study was because “to a greater extent than with any other form of warfare we are witnessing, the victims (around 80 percent) are civilian”.
“Suicide attacks traumatise entire communities, undermine popular faith in institutions of the state, provoke responses that limit freedoms, and intimidate populations into a sense that hopes of peace rest only with the providers of violence,” the UN report said.
And yet, as suicide missions are relatively cheap, unsophisticated and require no exit strategy, this war tactic continues to gain popularity with the Taliban and other insurgents fighting the government of President Hamid Karzai and his international supporters.
“It is due to the very widespread effects of these attacks that insurgents have more and more concentrated on their increase,” Rohullah Amin, from the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, told IRIN. “Nearly all suicide attackers are illiterate and brainwashed individuals who do not know about their victims.” Stopping the attacks
UNAMA believes these insurgents can be defeated if the government of Afghanistan and its international friends ensure preventative measures and address problems which contribute to suicide attacks.
|End poverty, unemployment and illiteracy and there will be no suicide attack in the country. |
“Immediate and long-term intervention in the conduct of counter-insurgency operations… extending the authority of an Afghan government that enjoys widespread legitimacy among its citizens together with an ability to provide justice and rule of law for its war-battered people,” are some of the UNAMA report recommendations for tackling the problem.
Suicide attacks in Afghanistan cannot be dealt with solely through military means, experts warn.
“End poverty, unemployment and illiteracy and there will be no suicide attack in the country,” said Amir Khisraw, an Afghan scholar.