Of­fi­cials: Ca­su­alty toll up to 100 in at­tack on mil­i­tary com­pound

Gun­men, sui­cide bombers wore army uni­forms

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY RAHIM FAIEZ

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN | Au­thor­i­ties have raised the ca­su­alty toll to 100 in an at­tack Fri­day on a mil­i­tary com­pound in north­ern Afghanistan by gun­men and sui­cide bombers wear­ing army uni­forms.

Gen. Daulat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghanistan Min­istry of De­fense, said Fri­day’s at­tack on a com­pound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan Na­tional Army left dozens of sol­diers and other per­son­nel dead or wounded.

Re­ports con­flicted on the death toll, but at least two sources within the army corps and a pro­vin­cial se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak with the media, con­firmed that more than 130 peo­ple were killed and at least 80 oth­ers were wounded.

The De­fense Min­istry had said Fri­day night that eight sol­diers were killed and 11 oth­ers were wounded in its ini­tial re­ports.

Gen. Mo­ham­mad Rad­man­ish, deputy spokesman for the De­fense Min­istry, said the mil­i­tants en­tered the base in Balkh prov­ince us­ing two mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles and at­tacked army per­son­nel in­side the com­pound’s mosque.

“Two sui­cide bombers det­o­nated their vests full of ex­plo­sive in­side the mosque of the army corps while ev­ery­one was busy with Fri­day prayers,” Gen. Rad­man­ish said.

Gen. Waziri said there were 10 at­tack­ers, in­clud­ing the two who car­ried out the sui­cide at­tacks. Eight oth­ers were killed in a gun bat­tle with sol­diers.

Tal­iban spokesman Zabi­hul­lah Mujahid claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the as­sault in an email sent to media.

Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani on Satur­day trav­eled to the base and strongly con­demned the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to a tweet from the of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count of the pres­i­den­tial palace.

“The at­tack­ers are in­fi­dels,” Mr. Ghani was quoted as say­ing in the tweet.

Mr. Ghani an­nounced that Sun­day would be a day of na­tional mourn­ing, with me­mo­rial ser­vices across the coun­try’s mosques and the Afghan flag fly­ing at half-staff, in a state­ment is­sued by the Pres­i­den­tial Palace.

Afzel Ha­did, head of pro­vin­cial coun­cil in Balkh told The As­so­ci­ated Press that more than 100 peo­ple, both army per­son­nel and oth­ers present at the time in­side the army crops, were killed in the at­tack.

“The ex­act num­ber is still not ver­i­fied, but for sure we know more than 100 were killed in the at­tack,” said Mr. Ha­did.

One of the at­tack sur­vivors, an Afghan army sol­dier, Mo­ham­mad Hussain, who was wounded and trans­ported to a hos­pi­tal in Mazar-e-Sharif said: “Three peo­ple in an Afghan Na­tional Army ve­hi­cle started shooting at us when we fin­ished Fri­day prayers, they are the en­e­mies of the coun­try.”

“I don’t know maybe they had some­one in­side to help them to bring the ve­hi­cle in­side,” he said. “There are seven to eight check­points from the main gate and with­out in­side help this ve­hi­cle can­not en­ter the com­pound and get to the mosque.”

In the Tal­iban’s de­tailed state­ment on the at­tack posted on its of­fi­cial web­site, spokesman Zabi­hul­lah Mujahid said that four of the 10 at­tack­ers were dis­guised as sol­diers at the time of the at­tack.

The Tal­iban state­ment said the at­tack was re­tal­i­a­tion for the killing of the Tal­iban gov­er­nor of Kunduz prov­ince, Mul­lah Abdul Salam Akhund, and threat­ened more vi­o­lence against the army and po­lice, say­ing “this year’s op­er­a­tions will be painful.”

Lo­cal TV footage showed hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered out­side the army crops wait­ing to find out if their rel­a­tives had been killed or wounded.

In March, an at­tack on a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in the cap­i­tal Kabul killed 50 peo­ple. Re­spon­si­bil­ity for that at­tack was claimed by the Is­lamic State. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, five at­tack­ers were in­volved, in­clud­ing one sui­cide bomber who det­o­nated an ex­plo­sives belt and four gun­men who stormed the build­ing.

The 209th corps is lo­cated in the Di­h­dadi dis­trict of Balkh. It is one of seven corps of the coun­try’s Min­istry of De­fense, which is responsible for pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for Afghanistan’s north­ern and north­east­ern prov­inces.


An Afghan na­tional Army stands guard at a check­point in the Kabul-Jalal­abad high­way on the out­skirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Satur­day. A spokesman for the Afghanistan Min­istry of De­fense said Fri­day’s at­tack on an army com­pound left dozens of sol­diers and other per­son­nel dead or wounded.

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