Mil­i­tants storm NATO base in Afghanistan

Else­where, three jour­nal­ists held by the coali­tion and the govern­ment are freed.

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Laura King re­port­ing from kabul, afghanistan laura.king@latimes.com

About 20 in­sur­gents armed with as­sault ri­fles and vests loaded with ex­plo­sives launched a co­or­di­nated at­tack Fri­day against a NATO base in east­ern Afghanistan, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said, the lat­est in a se­ries of largely fu­tile but psy­cho­log­i­cally rat­tling strikes against well-for­ti­fied Western in­stal­la­tions.

Five in­sur­gents were killed and one cap­tured in the strike, NATO’s In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force said in a state­ment. There were no Western ca­su­al­ties, it said.

The at­tack on For­ward Op­er­at­ing Base Gardez, in Pak­tia prov­ince, be­gan when “a ve­hi­cle, fol­lowed closely by four sui­cide-vest-wear­ing in­sur­gents, at­tempted to breach a for­ti­fied area of the base,” the NATO force said. Com­bi­na­tions of car bombs and sui­cide bombers on foot are of­ten used to try to pen­e­trate govern­ment build­ings and Western in­stal­la­tions.

In re­cent months, Tal­iban fight­ers have launched what were pre­vi­ously un­usual frontal as­saults on the largest Western bases in Afghanistan: air­fields at Kan­da­har in the south; Ba­gram, north of the cap­i­tal; and Jalal­abad, in the east.

The aim ap­pears to be mainly to show that in­sur­gents are will­ing to sac­ri­fice fight­ers in what amount to sui­cide attacks.

East­ern prov­inces bor­der­ing Pak­istan’s tribal ar­eas are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to attacks by an in­sur­gent splin­ter group, the net­work led by Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani, but the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion force has been ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing the Haqqani net­work on both the Afghan and Pak­istani sides of the border.

Also Fri­day, the Western mil­i­tary said that two Afghan jour­nal­ists de­tained by the NATO force had been freed, along with a third taken into cus­tody by Afghanistan’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vice.

Afghan jour­nal­ists who main­tain con­tacts with the Tal­iban for news­gath­er­ing pur­poses some­times fall un­der the sus­pi­cion of the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, the Western mil­i­tary or both. In­ter­na­tional press groups and hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions had ob­jected to the de­ten­tions.

The jour­nal­ists de­tained by the Western mil­i­tary had been picked up over the last week.

They were Rah­mat­ul­lah Naikzad and Mo­ham­mad Nadir, both work­ing for the Qatar-based satel­lite chan­nel Al Jazeera, widely watched through­out the Mus­lim world. Naikzad is also a free­lancer for the As­so­ci­ated Press.

The NATO force said that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion had deemed the two not to be se­cu­rity threats, but pro­vided no de­tails.

The other ar­rest was that of ra­dio jour­nal­ist Ho­jat­ul­lah Mu­jadadi, who worked in Kapisa prov­ince, not far from Kabul, the cap­i­tal. Karzai had ap­pealed for the re­lease of the two jour­nal­ists held by the NATO force, mak­ing it some­what awk­ward that his govern­ment was hold­ing a jour­nal­ist as well.

Mu­jadadi’s re­lease, to­gether with that of the other two, was re­ported by the Western mil­i­tary Fri­day, which is the main Mus­lim prayer day, when govern­ment min­istries were closed and no spokesman for Karzai re­turned calls.

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