Kabul Bombing Part of Taliban's Escalation

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The suicide bombing that rocked Kabul on Wednesday was but the latest outrage in a fresh wave of violence that began on October 20 with the shooting death of a British charity worker, followed by the assassination of two western DHL employees less than a week later. The bomb attack on the Ministry of Culture and Information, not far from the presidential palace, appears to have targeted the ministry's foreign advisers, according to the Taliban spokesman who claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of his organization in an interview with the Associated Press. Three attackers rushed the gate of the ministry, according to police witnesses; one was detained, one escaped and the third detonated himself in the entryway, killing five people, wounding another five and badly damaging the building and surrounding shops.

The increasing violence, which has 2008 on track to have the highest number of troop and civilian casualties in Afghanistan since the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001, has prompted many in the Afghan government to consider reconciliation talks with moderate members of the insurgent group. Wednesday's bombing, however, may serve to dampen public enthusiasm for such talks. President Karzai, who was on his way to Turkey to attend the World Economic Forum on Europe and Asia, called the attack "heinous," saying "Our enemies are trying to undermine the recent efforts by the government for a peaceful solution to end the violence."

While there have been several attempted and successful suicide bombings on the fringes of Kabul against Afghan and NATO army convoys, this is the first attack in the city since July 7, when a suicide bomber in a vehicle set off explosives outside the gates of the Indian embassy, killing at least 60 people, including an Indian diplomat. Some observers have warned that the mounting violence in the capital may in fact get worse in the coming weeks, following recent changes at the Interior Ministry, which historically been riddled with corruption. The replacement of the former Minister of the Interior, who oversees police and security issues across the country, by the technocratic minister of Education, Hanif Atmar, has rankled many. The recent surge in violence may be seen as a "test" for the new minister, say some. But only a week into his new appointment, Atmar appears to be passing with flying colors. On Monday, he oversaw the rescue and release of two prominent Afghan businessmen who had been kidnapped by a criminal gang and held to ransom for millions of dollars. What remains to be seen, however, is whether he can bring the kidnappers to justice. His next task will be to stop a new round of suicide bombings before they start.

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