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Increase of Suicide Terrorism in Afghanistan

Recent high profile suicide bombings in Afghanistan include an attack on an American military base that coincided with a visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. The bombings continue a trend that began in 2006 when suicide attacks in Afghanistan increased fivefold over the previous year. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports that al-Qaida terrorists and Afghanistan's ousted Taleban rulers are claiming credit for the recent attacks.

Vice President Cheney was at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan last month when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the front gate. The blast killed at least 22 people. The Taleban claimed responsibility for the attack and said Cheney was their intended target, but he was more than a kilometer away from the explosion.

Security analyst Bruce Hoffman says the emergence of suicide terrorism in Afghanistan represents a global trend, mostly in urban areas.

Hoffman is a professor of security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He says, "It's something that galvanizes attention; that captures media focus, and serves the Taleban's purpose of demonstrating their ability to strike in a variety of places, not just where their strength may be in the south or the eastern part of the country."

Video released by al-Qaida terrorists depicts a suicide attack and the assembly of a bomb using Soviet-era explosives. Alexis Debat, a terrorism expert at the Nixon Center in Washington, comments. "This is a very, very compelling statement for how simple it is for the Taleban to hurt us in Afghanistan. The child is making the bomb that is about to kill him, and yet he has such an amazing, peaceful look on his face. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like this, not just in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and everywhere. This is what al-Qaida wants us to know."

Bruce Hoffman says groups such as the Taleban combine holy scripture and clerical authority with promises of a golden afterlife in order recruit suicide bombers and justify murder. "It's the perversion of theology to suit the very political and real life agenda of the terrorist groups. So I think it's one of worst sort of perversions imaginable."

Afghan crowds staged an anti-American demonstrations to protest the deaths of at least eight civilians caught in the crossfire between U.S troops and the Taleban on Sunday. The shootout followed a suicide attack on an American convoy.

Professor Hoffman says the U.S. response played into the hands of terrorists. "So, they've choreographed, almost gamed it, in hopes of eliciting precisely that response. And unfortunately we played into it. And the anger of people is then focused on the most visible presence, i.e., the military force, whether it's the US or other, not on the invisible suicide terrorist who is now deceased."

Hoffman says suicide bombings are not designed to defeat, but rather to weaken the morale and resolve of an opponent. And experts are predicting an offensive and more suicide bombings by insurgents in Afghanistan this spring.