In addition to intimidating Western workers and restricting their movement, the Taliban may also be seeking the support of pro-shari’a elements of Afghan society by targeting “unlawful” activities such as the consumption of alcohol and the unrestricted interaction of men and women. But hey now, let’s not be judgemental: After all, the Christian right in the U.S. reaches out to “values voters” with suicide bombings too, right?
“Taliban plan to attack Kabul restaurants” by Jason Straziuso for the Associated Press:
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban said Tuesday that its suicide bombers would attack restaurants where Westerners eat in Kabul, an ominous new threat that forced American and European workers to restrict outings in the Afghan capital.
The country’s intelligence chief linked Monday’s deadly attack on the Serena Hotel “” a well-guarded, high-profile property in Kabul frequented by Westerners “” to a Pakistani militant. Afghan officials arrested four people, and said they included one of the three attackers, who was disguised in a police uniform for the assault.
The death toll in the bombing and shooting attack on the hotel rose to eight. An American, a Norwegian journalist and a Filipina who died of her wounds Tuesday were among those killed.
“We will target all these restaurants in Kabul where foreigners are eating,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press by telephone. “We have jihadists in Kabul right now and soon we will carry out more attacks against military personnel and foreigners.”
Taliban spokesmen often boast that militants plan to step up attacks. Suicide bombings have increased in the last two years, and the hotel attack was the first against a facility favored by Westerners.
Security companies that protect international workers in Afghanistan restricted Westerners’ movements Tuesday, placing restaurants and stores frequented by foreigners off-limits for some.
Kabul has about a half dozen restaurants popular with Westerners. The establishments “” run by ex-pats with themed menus such as French or Mexican “” do not allow Afghans entry because they serve alcohol, which is illegal for Muslims here. The restaurants sit behind nondescript walls and do little advertising, relying on word-of-mouth to bring in customers.
Some Westerners said they would continue to eat out. Christoph Klawitter, the head of a German logistics company, said he dined out two to three times a week, including at the Serena, before the attack.
“I will still go out but not as often as before, maybe, and the venue now is more important,” he said. “The Serena was pretty secure, and even there they got in. So I don’t know. The more security, the more likely it is I might go there.”
The Taliban have targeted aid workers and civilian contractors with kidnappings and killings. But the Islamic militants have typically focused attacks on Western and Afghan officials or security personnel, not civilians.
If there are more attacks on Western establishments, it will likely restrict Westerners’ freedom of movement even further, and eventually could force aid agencies from the country, the way attacks in Iraq did.
“This is a new kind of target for the Taliban,” Barney Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University wrote on his blog. “Foreigners going to restaurants in Kabul … sometimes joke that they feel like targets. Up to now, however, they have not been.”
Rubin added: “I imagine it will not be the last” such attack.