NATO: Afghan Homicide Bombings Up Sharply in 2006

Taliban militants have launched 78 homicide attacks across Afghanistan this year, killing close to 200 people, NATO said Sunday.

Violence has increased sharply across Afghanistan the last several months, and the Taliban has acknowledged adopting the suicide bombings and remote-controlled attacks commonly used by insurgents in Iraq.

Seth Jones, an analyst for the U.S.-based RAND Corp., said there had been an "extraordinary change" in the lethality of attacks in Afghanistan in 2006, indicating that militants are using "more sophisticated" techniques.

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"There have been more suicide attacks in Afghanistan in 2006 than in the entire history of the country combined," Jones said. "That is one reason that the fatality numbers are so large — the suicide attack."

There were only two homicide attacks in 2003 and six in 2004, said Jones. He said there were 21 in 2005.

NATO said 142 Afghan civilians, 40 Afghan security forces and 13 international troops have died in homicide attacks since January.

"The very cowardly use of suicide bombers, the tragic use of suicide bombers, reveals weakness on the part of the Taliban, not strength," said Gen. David Richards, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"It is also costing them a lot of support from the Afghan people, because they see that all the Taliban can bring to this country is murder, oppression and poverty."

The military alliance also said it has detained 10 would-be homicide bombers, in addition to 17 would-be bombers that Afghanistan's intelligence agency last week said it has detained.

"Our capability to learn about who is bringing this death and destruction in the form of suicide bombs and roadside bombs grows every day," said Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Fighting in the south has subsided since hitting a peak in August and September, when Western forces had protracted battles with militants in the southern province of Kandahar, said NATO spokesman Mark Laity.

The U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces, meanwhile, killed five suspected insurgents in a clash in eastern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defense said. One suspected insurgent was detained following the gunfight Saturday in eastern Paktika province.

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