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Insurgent Blast Levels Afghan Mosque, Destroys Young Lives

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2006 – An extremist-engineered explosion in eastern Afghanistan destroyed a mosque while killing three people and wounding eight, including three children, officials here announced today. The attack occurred on June 6 near the southeastern provincial capital city of Ghazni.

Terrorists triggered the explosion that destroyed the Haji Adam Khan Mosque in Oal a-I Oadzi.

Gov. Elhaj Sheer Alam, the Ghazni provincial governor, told reporters Taliban members attempting to construct a motorcycle-born improvised explosive device were responsible for the blast.

Ghazni District Afghan National Policemen and Afghan National Army soldiers from 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 203rd ANA Corps arrived first on the scene and secured the site. Provincial and local authorities organized continuing search, recovery and cleanup efforts.

U.S. soldiers from Task Force Paladin and Task Force Iron Grays also played key emergency response roles. A team from Task Force Paladin investigated the site and conducted interviews in an effort to determine precisely what transpired.

Task Force Iron Grays soldiers contributed to the investigation and search of the site and also provided medical care to people injured in the blast.

The mosque housed a group of Muslim students. Four men were detained in connection with the incident.

"We have strong evidence linking this to the extremists," said Army Capt. Phillip K. Stasulli, the Task Force Iron Grays intelligence officer.

"All the evidence points toward an extremist cell planning on conducting attacks against Americans, government of Afghanistan personnel and innocent Afghan civilians," said the Middletown, Conn., native.

"It's a terrible thing for the people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan when the extremists are so cold they would use mosques as cover for their works of hatred and evil," said Army Lt. Col. Steven Gilbert, the Task Force Iron Grays commander.

"Regardless of how hard they try to kill coalition and Afghan forces, we still believe the government has chosen the right path, the path of peace, freedom and prosperity," added the Manchester, Conn., resident. "The enemies have chosen the wrong path: the path of evil, death and destruction."

Gilbert also noted the philosophical contrast between insurgents bent on murder and allied personnel, who actually provided medical care to their would-be killers in the aftermath of the explosion.

The incident remains under investigation by coalition as well as Afghan authorities.

(Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro serves with the Task Force Spartan Public Affairs staff.)

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