Steps of courage disable suicide attacker

Last updated 12:10 01/07/2013

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An Afghan soldier clad in a special protective suit has summoned the courage to approach a man lying on the ground wearing an explosive-packed vest.

The suicide attacker was caught in Jalalabad on Sunday by the Afghan National Army, but the man's weapon continued to pose great risk to his captors.

Soldiers hog-tied the bomber to prevent him from detonating the device, but someone had to get close to the would-be suicide attacker to disable it entirely.

A soldier was sent in wearing a special protective suit, although his hands were exposed to allow him the dexterity to perform the dangerous act.

The brave move was captured by a Reuters photographer and the images quickly circulated around the world, including in Britain's Daily Mail which dubbed the scene 'the real Hurt Locker', in reference to the Hollywood movie about a bomb dispoal soldier.

After disabling the device, the man, still tied, was driven away on the back of a flat deck truck.

The capture of this would-be attacker comes as the Afghan government struggles to grip to power with US-led coalition forces withdrawing from the troubled country.

Last week, the Taliban conducted a brazen attack on the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul.

They drove a SUV carrying four fighters into a highly secured area by the gates of the palace.

The four gunmen then battled Afghan security forces for about an hour before being killed. A second vehicle involved in the attack blew up at a checkpoint on the way into the area.

Attacks such as these demonstrate the need for the government to get the Taliban back to the negotiating table.

The Taliban have indicated they were willing to open peace talks with the US and the Afghanistan government, but at the same time have not renounced violence and attacks across Afghanistan.  

Afghanistan President Mohammed Karzai told reporters at the weekend at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron that moving ahead with talks was the only way to end nearly 12 years of war.

''The attack that was organised near the presidential palace will not deter us from seeking peace,'' Karzai said.

''We've had them killing the Afghan people but still we ask for peace.''

Karzai downplayed the significance of the Taliban attack at the heart of the Afghan government, in which all eight militants and three security guards were killed.

''Comparatively speaking this was quite an irrelevant attack,'' he said.

''We're more concerned when they attack Afghan civilians, we're more concerned when they attack Afghan schools and children - I wish they would spend all their time attacking the presidential palace and leave the rest of the country alone.''

The Taliban have refused to negotiate with Karzai's government in the past, saying the US holds effective control in Afghanistan, but the Americans are hoping to bring the two sides together. 

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The US has said it would meet first with the Taliban and to get the process going, and those preliminary talks would then be followed by negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government. 

In a nod to Karzai's concerns that Afghanistan might be being squeezed out of the process, Cameron assured him that ''this peace process is for Afghanistan to determine, it must be Afghan-owned, Afghan-led.''

He, too, urged the Taliban to open talks.

''I believe a window of opportunity is open and I will urge all of those who renounce violence, who respect the constitution, who want to have a voice in the future prosperity of this country to seize that opportunity,'' he said.

- AGENCIES

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