Editor's note: We're seeing reports of an explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the Aino Mina housing project. Early reports suggest a suicide bomber may have targeted a member of the provincial council in Kandahar. No word on injuries. We'll continue to look for confirmation. - Jimmy
Kandahar or Qandahar (Pashto: کندهار Kandahār, Persian: قندهار, Qandahār, known in older literature as Candahar) is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 491,500 as of 2012. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at an altitude of 1,010 m above sea level. The Arghandab River runs along the west of the city.
Kandahar is one of the most culturally significant cities of the Pashtuns and has been their traditional seat of power for more than 200 years. It is a major trading center for sheep, wool, cotton, silk, felt, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. The region produces fine fruits, especially pomegranates and grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit, and is a major source of marijuana and hashish. The area is believed to be the birthplace of cannabis indica.
Kandahar has an international airport and extensive road links with Lashkar Gah and Herat to the west, Ghazni and Kabul to the northeast, Tarinkot to the north, and Quetta in neighboring Balochistan to the south.
The region around Kandahar is one of the oldest known human settlements. Alexander the Great had laid-out the foundation of what is now Old Kandahar in the 4th century BC and gave it the Ancient Greek name Αλεξάνδρεια Aραχωσίας (Alexandria of Arachosia). Many empires have long fought over the city due to its strategic location along the trade routes of southern, central and western Asia. In 1709, Mirwais Hotak made the region an independent kingdom and turned Kandahar into the capital of the Hotaki dynasty. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the last Afghan empire, made it the capital of modern Afghanistan.
Since the 1978 Marxist revolution, the city has been a magnet for groups such as the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, Quetta Shura, Hezbi Islami, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, many of which are believed to receive support from Pakistan's ISI spy network. From late 1994 to 2001, it served as the capital of the Taliban government until they were toppled by US-led NATO forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 and replaced by the government of President Hamid Karzai.