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Taliban fighters attack Afghan army base, ‘killing 140’ | Afghanistan News | Al Jazeera

foto – Afghan troops arrived near the site of the base in Mazar-i-Sharif [Anil Usyan/Reuters] – Taliban fighters attack Afghan army base, ‘killing 140’Fighters dressed in military uniforms attack major army base in Balkh province as soldiers leave Friday prayers.

Afghan government officials say the death toll has jumped to 140 following Friday’s assault on an army base in the northern Balkh province.

Another 160 people were wounded in the attack, Mohammad Ibrahim Khair Andesh, the head of the provincial council, announced on Saturday.

The attack, responsibility for which was later claimed by the Taliban, happened at an army command centre a few miles from Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh.

Two of the attackers blew themselves up and seven were killed in the assault, which lasted several hours and targeted soldiers at a mosque and dining facility, the Afghan defence ministry said.

IN PICTURES: The Afghans on the frontlines fighting the Taliban

One of the assailants was detained.

Taliban fighters in three military vehicles with forged documents launched the attack by shooting a rocket at the entrance of the base, a military official told DPA news agency.

The source said 10 fighters first targeted the mosque, where army staff were performing Friday prayers, before moving on to the dining facility, the source said.

Several military helicopters hovered over the facility during Friday’s attack and ambulances later took away the bodies of the victims, an AFP news agency correspondent said.

Taliban’s claim

The Taliban claimed that more than 500 soldiers were killed and wounded.

The group also claimed that four of the attackers were soldiers who had served at the base and had knowledge of the facility.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the capital Kabul on Friday, said: “The attack followed a familiar pattern with a suicide bomb ramming into the gates of the base and detonating.

“After that the attackers were able to get inside. The attackers were heavily armed with suicide vests and automatic weapons, trying to cause as much damage as they can.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the assault.

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

The Taliban released a picture of the purported attackers, dressed in military gear, with their faces blurred.

The base in Balkh is home to the Afghan army’s 209th Corps as well as to a contingent from the German army. No German soldiers were affected by the attack.

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

‘Few thousand troops’

Nicholson in February told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, DC 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 armed groups.

The last major attack against a military site in Afghanistsan was in early March when fighters disguised as doctors stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital – Kabul’s largest military hospital – in Kabul, killing dozens.

Afghanistan: A pawn in major power rivalry?

Afghan security forces, beset by killings, desertions and non-existent “ghost soldiers” on the payroll, have been struggling to beat back the Taliban since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

According to US watchdog SIGAR, casualties among Afghan security forces rose by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed.

video – Afghanistan: Taliban at the gate – 101 East

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Sorgente: Taliban fighters attack Afghan army base, ‘killing 140’ | Afghanistan News | Al Jazeera

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