Philippine Daily Inquirer

TALIBAN SUICIDE ATTACKERS KILL 140 AFGHAN SOLDIERS IN ARMY BASE

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MAZAR-I-SHARIF—

As many as 140 Afghan soldiers were killed on Friday by Taliban attackers apparently disguised in military uniforms in what would be the deadliest attack ever on an Afghan military base, officials said.

One official in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where the attack occurred, said on Saturday at least 140 soldiers were killed and many others wounded. Other officials said the toll was likely to be even higher.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the government has yet to release official casualty figures.

A US official in Washington on Friday had put the toll at more than 50 killed and wounded.

As many as 10 Taliban fighters, dressed in Afghan army uniforms and driving military vehicles, talked their way onto the base and opened fire on soldiers eating dinner and leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, according to officials. The attackers used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, they said.

Taliban spokespers­on Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement on Saturday the attack was retributio­n for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanista­n.

The Nato-led military coalition deploys advisers to the base where the attack occurred to train and assist the Afghan forces but coalition officials said no internatio­nal troops were hurt in the attack.

The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a prolonged war with Taliban insurgents and other militant groups.

The attack was launched near a mosque on the base in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, said army spokesman Nasratulla­h Jamshidi.

Six attackers told guards at the gates that they were carrying wounded soldiers and urgently needed to enter, he said.

After killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, one attacker was killed and the other five arrested, Jamshidi said.

A number of German and other foreign soldiers are based in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“To our knowledge, no Germans were affected,” said a spokespers­on for the German Operations Command. The statement was echoed by American officials.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokespers­on, said the attackers had set off an explosion, allowing suicide bombers with small arms to breach the base’s defenses.

“Our fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan army stationed there,” he said.

The base is the headquarte­rs for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, responsibl­e for much of northern Afghanista­n, including Kunduz province where there has been heavy fighting.

The Nato command in Kabul called the attack “murderous and reprehensi­ble.”

 ?? —AP ?? Afghan soldiers stand guard at the gate of a military compound after an attack by gunmen in Mazar-i-Sharif province north of Kabul, Afghanista­n.
—AP Afghan soldiers stand guard at the gate of a military compound after an attack by gunmen in Mazar-i-Sharif province north of Kabul, Afghanista­n.

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