Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Taliban assault kills at least 50 Afghan troops at army base

AFP, MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan

Afghan soldiers carry coffins containing bodies of Afghan soldiers at a military base yesterday one day after it was targeted by militants in Balkh Province, Afghanistan.

Photo: EPA

More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed or wounded in a coordinated Taliban attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan, the Afghan Ministry of Defense said yesterday.

It was the latest in a string of deadly assaults against Afghan military sites, which underscores rising insecurity as Afghanistan braces for an intense spring fighting season.

The ministry did not give a breakdown of the casualties in the attack near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, which lasted several hours and targeted soldiers at a mosque and a dining facility.

The US military said that “more than 50” Afghan soldiers were killed in the assault, while an Afghan army source who was on the base at the time put the death toll as high as 150, with dozens more wounded.

Two of the attackers blew themselves up in the raid, which was claimed by the Taliban late on Friday.

All were dressed in Afghan army uniforms and arrived in military vehicles, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that no civilians were killed.

The ministry said Afghan forces had killed all the attackers. Earlier it had said one of the assailants had been detained.

The military source at the base said there were at least 10 attackers, adding that the soldiers were “young recruits who had come for training.”

The toll could change, the ministry said in a statement, adding that it would provide more information once an investigation was completed.

Afghan officials have been known to minimize casualty figures in some major attacks on military sites, such as early last month when gunmen disguised as doctors stormed the country’s largest military hospital in Kabul, killing dozens.

Afghan officials put the death toll in that attack at 50, but security sources and survivors told reporters more than 100 were killed in the brazen and savage assault.

US Army General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, praised Afghan commandos for bringing the “atrocity to an end.”

Afghan security forces, beset by killings and desertions, have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

According to US-based watchdog the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent last year, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed.

The attack on the Kabul hospital last month came a week after 16 people were killed in simultaneous Taliban suicide assaults on two security compounds in the capital.

More than one third of Afghanistan is outside government control and many regions are fiercely contested by various insurgent groups, as Kabul’s repeated bids to launch peace negotiations with the Taliban have failed.

Nicholson in February told the US Senate Committee on Armed Services in Washington that he needed “a few thousand” more troops to help train and assist the Afghan forces.

The US has about 8,400 troops in the country with about another 5,000 from NATO allies assisting a much larger Afghan force in the war against the Taliban and other Muslim militants.

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