“I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” — Barack Obama
“Blast Hits Afghan Capital Shortly After Hagel Arrives,” by Alissa J. Rubin for the New York Times, March 9 (thanks to Lookmann):
KABUL, Afghanistan “” A suicide bomber wearing a vest bomb struck outside the Afghan defense ministry on Saturday, killing at least 10 people in a blast just hours after Chuck Hagel, the new United States defense secretary, arrived here in Kabul.
And a short time later, another suicide bomber detonated his explosive in eastern Afghanistan before reaching his target, but killed eight children and a policeman, according to Afghan military and hospital officials.
Although Mr. Hagel was not near the site of either blast, the episodes with their combined death toll of 18 in a single day appeared timed to coincide with his visit. The attacks in the heavily secured capital and in a more remote area of the country highlighted how Afghanistan remained vulnerable to attacks by the insurgency despite nearly 12 years of international efforts to stabilize it.
The attack in eastern Afghanistan occurred in Khost Province, and the bomber was stopped from doing more harm by a policeman who died as he tried to stop the bomber.
“One of our brave police officers hugged the suicide bomber and asked him not to blow himself up, but the bomber blew himself up anyway and our brave police officer was torn to pieces,” said Yaqub Mandozia, deputy police chief of Khost Province.
In Kabul, the defense ministry said that in addition to the 10 people killed at the ministry, who included two Afghan soldiers, 14 others were wounded.
Less than three hours earlier 20 journalists had gathered at the exact location of the explosion at the ministry”s gate to board a bus scheduled to take them to a ceremony in observance of the transfer of Bagram Prison to the Afghan government. At the last minute the trip was canceled even though it had been widely promoted a few days earlier.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the ministry in Kabul. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman for northern and eastern Afghanistan, said the bomber was from Kandahar, and that the intention “is to send a message to the visiting American defense minister.” He denied that any civilians had been killed or wounded.
The Taliban have pledged repeatedly not to harm civilians, but according to the most recent United Nations report on civilian casualties the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 81 percent of the 2,754 civilian deaths and injuries in the Afghan conflict in 2012.
Of those killed and wounded, four worked for the ministry. Two of the dead were Afghan National Army officers as were two of the wounded, said Dr. Musa Wardak, the head of the military hospital in Kabul, which received most of the bodies. Among the 10 people killed were also a woman and a child, Dr. Wardak said.
The explosion, which was followed by heavy gunfire, occurred just as Kabul residents were going to work and streets were busy with people on foot, motorcycles and in cars….