The Burqa-clad bombers who terrorise Afghanistan

Taliban borrow tactic from Iraqi militant handbook as Afghan violence shows no sign of slowing, in spite of US-led surge

Male suicide bombers disguised in womens' burqas stormed government buildings and security headquarters in co-ordinated attacks which killed a dozen people and injured 22 others in eastern Afghanistan yesterday.

Hamid Karzai's government described the "commando-style" raids as a new tactic being employed by the Taliban in what has been one of the most violent months in the country's war.

Bombers wearing burqas, male and female, have struck on a number of occasions in Iraq. The modus operandi is, however, new to Afghanistan where, due to religious sensibilities, women in traditional dresses face less risk of being searched than in Iraq.

Fierce firefights broke out in the towns of Gardez and Jalalabad after about 15 bombers produced Kalashnikov assault rifles from under their long robes and opened fire. Several of the insurgents who managed to get inside the buildings then detonated their explosive vests, causing carnage.

Azizuddin Wardak, the provincial police chief said that all the bombers had entered Gardez town centre wearing all-enveloping burqas.

"This is a new type of tactic. They wanted to kill innocent people as well as government officials," he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks which came during the "surge" of US and British forces in southern Afghanistan which aims to establish secure zones ahead of next month's national elections.

The bombings yesterday were described by Afghan and American officials as attempts by the Taliban to relieve pressure on their fighters in the south.

The east was the scene of ferocious clashes between US-led Nato forces and the insurgents before the focus moved to Helmand and Kandahar.

Curfews have been imposed in Jalalabad and also in Gardez. Mohammed Nizam Ali, a Gardez shopkeeper, said that residents were afraid. "You can try to keep away from the fighting, but this is now happening in places we have to walk past every day," he said.

"What happened was very bad, I saw a lot of blood and also a body of a policeman who was shot."

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the organisation claimed responsibility for the bombings and that "similar missions" would take place in the future. According to Nato sources, there has been increasing evidence of insurgents crossing over the border from Pakistan. One official said: "They have been coming over in some numbers. The first batches, it was felt, may have been pushed out by the Pakistani military offensive. But what we are seeing subsequently have been well-armed and well-organised groups who are obviously being sent on operations."

Taliban assaults have shown increasing signs of complexity and attacks have also targeted the capital, Kabul. Two months ago, 11 Islamist fighters took over government buildings in Khost, 40 miles east of Gardez, leading to gunbattles in which 20 people died and 17 were injured, including three American soldiers.

Kyle Landers, a US military analyst who is writing a book on Taliban tactics, said: "These types of operations obviously follow training and that is taking place across the border in Pakistan. Al-Qa'ida may have been the ones who are responsible for the training, but there is also bound to be suspicion that the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] may be involved."

The EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said that there was widespread support among member countries for the American led "surge" but that the overall security situation in Afghanistan was "evolving not in an ideal manner".

Meanwhile, losses among Nato forces have continued to mount. A second British soldier was killed in 24 hours, the 18th to die this month, bringing the total number of UK fatalities since the mission began to 187. The soldier, from the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, died after a blast in Helmand while he was on patrol.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Richardson, the spokesman for UK forces in the province, said: "The death of any comrade brings sadness to the task force but we are consoled by the fact that these deaths are not in vain."

The engagements have also seen a steep rise in the numbers of the injured. Captain Harry Parker, the 26- year-old son of General Sir Nick Parker, the third highest officer in the British army, is reported to have lost a leg after being severely injured by a roadside bomb at Nad Ali in Helmand.

General Parker is to be deployed to Afghanistan in September, becoming the most senior ranking British officer in the mission, when he takes over as deputy to the US commander of Nato forces, General Stanley McChrystal.

The outgoing Nato secretary- general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who leaves office on 1 August, declared during a visit to London that withdrawing from Afghanistan was not an option as this would mean that "al-Qa'ida will have a free run again, and their terrorist ambitions are global".

During his visit, Mr de Hoop Scheffer met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown who stressed the need for "further burden-sharing" by Nato allies.

Yesterday, a former Labour minister accused the head of the Armed Forces and the chief of the Army of making comments that "threaten to undermine" Britain's effort in Afghanistan and give "succour to the enemy".

During Lords Question Time, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock called for the Defence minister Baroness Taylor of Bolton to remind the Army head, General Sir Richard Dannatt, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup of the "importance of loyalty".

The deadliest month: Surge brings setbacks

19 June British troops move into Helmand for Operation Panther's Claw.

1 July Lt-Col Rupert Thornloe killed, the most senior soldier to die in combat since the Falklands.

2 July About 4,000 US troops move into Helmand in fresh surge.

9 July Truck bomb kills 21 in Logar.

9-10 July Eight soldiers die in the UK's worst 24 hours in Afghanistan.

18 July Taliban bomb in Kandahar kills 12, including five children.

22 July With 30 US and 17 British troops killed, this is now the deadliest month of the conflict to date.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone