Taliban fighters dressed in military uniforms attacked a key army base in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing eight soldiers and wounding 11 others.
An American military official said the Taliban may have killed and wounded more than 50 Afghan troops.
The attack occurred near a mosque on the military base near Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of Balkh province, during Friday prayers, officials said.
“Gunmen wearing Afghan army uniforms have launched a complex attack on an army compound in the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif,” defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP news agency. “So far we have counted eight dead and 11 wounded, all military, there are no civilian casualties.”
Waziri said five attackers were killed in the battle, including one wearing a suicide vest who was shot by soldiers before he could trigger his explosives. He said one of the attackers was caught and arrested.
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The base is the headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps. It covers most of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province, which has been the scene of heavy fighting.
Colonel John Thomas, from the US military’s Central Command, told Reuters news agency the casualty toll would likely rise significantly.
“We’re talking probably more than 50 casualties,” Thomas said, adding he was unaware of any US-led coalition forces who were directly involved.
“There is a mosque and a dining facility on the base that seemed to, at this point from our reports, be the subject of significant attack from enemy forces.”
Daily Sun News’s Rob McBride, reporting from the capital Kabul, said the assailants had been surrounded by Afghan commandos.
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“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,” McBride reported, quoting an interior ministry statement.
“The attackers were heavily armed with suicide vests and automatic weapons, trying to cause as much damage as they can.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault.
“Our fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan army stationed there,” he said.
The NATO command in Kabul called the attack “murderous and reprehensible”.
An army officer told Reuters the attackers used military uniforms and vehicles to pass three checkpoints before launching their assault.
The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a prolonged war with the Taliban, as well as other armed groups. The country has seen rising violence since the US-led invasion in October 2001 ousted the Taliban-led government.
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Source: Daily Sun News and news agencies