Death Toll Hits 45 in Taliban Attack 01/22 06:02
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan was reeling on Tuesday from a brazen
Taliban assault on a military base in the country's east the previous day that
killed at least 45 people and wounded as many as 70, most of them military
personnel, according to provincial officials.
There were fears, however, that the death toll from the daytime assault on
the base, which also serves as a training center for a pro-government militia
and is run by the country's intelligence service, was even higher.
The attack began when a suicide bomber drove a Humvee into the base in
eastern Maidan Wardak province and detonated his load as he rammed the vehicle
into the main building there, according to Khawanin Sultani, a council member.
The building collapsed from the explosion, which likely contributed to the
high casualty numbers.
The Taliban, who promptly claimed responsibility in a statement to the media
just hours after the attack, later said in a separate statement that they had
met again on Monday with U.S. representatives to discuss "ending the invasion
of Afghanistan" in talks that would continue on Tuesday. They are meeting in
Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.
The simultaneousness of the events --- the deadly attack, one of the worst
Taliban assaults on Afghan forces in recent years --- and the Qatar meeting
that was meant to pave way for talks aimed at resolving Afghanistan's 17-year
war, underscored the audacity of the insurgents in the face of stepped-up U.S.
The Taliban, who now hold sway in almost half of Afghanistan, carry out
attacks on a daily basis, mainly targeting the country's beleaguered security
The base that was hit is located on the outskirts of Maidan Shar, the
provincial capital, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Kabul. Sultani said
that after the Taliban bombing, four other attackers engaged in a shootout with
Afghan troops and that all the attackers were killed.
"The main building inside the base collapsed and most of the bodies were
under the destroyed building," he said.
Sultani said there were about 150 military personnel and others at the base
at the time. The pro-government militia that was hit had been responsible for
and highly effective in securing the province, especially two important
highways linking Kabul with the provinces of Kandahar, Maidan Wardak and Bamyan.
"They had participated in so many operations alongside other security forces
and had fought against insurgents," Sultani added, speaking about the militia.
A provincial security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
he was not authorized to talk to the media, told the AP that he personally
counted as many as 75 dead bodies at the base. There was no official
confirmation of a higher toll.
Dozens of ambulances took the wounded to the main provincial hospital as
well as to Kabul for further treatment, the official said, adding that there
were fears the death toll would keep rising. The blast was so strong that
windows of civilian homes seen in the distance from the base were also
shattered, he said.
A short statement from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office strongly
condemned Monday's attack, saying the "enemy had carried out a terrorist attack
against the intelligence agency's personnel, killed and wounded a number of
honest sons of this homeland who were defending their country and protecting
their people." Ghani also ordered an investigation, the statement added.
It was not known how many of the dead were members of the militia in
training and how many were military and intelligence officers and instructors.
Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a former deputy interior minister and a military
analyst, said the attack was a "tragedy and a big loss to the Afghan security
Yarmand said it was difficult to believe that the country's vaunted security
agency --- the best equipped and best trained --- could have lost such a high
number of personnel in a single attack and that there must have been serious
negligence on someone's part.
The bomber in the Humvee that attacked the base apparently managed to get
through what should have been the first barrier without being stopped and
reached the main building, he said. The suicide bomber sped through the
entrance gate and penetrated into the base despite being fired upon by security
forces from a Humvee guarding the entrance, he added.
Yarmand also complained that there were no other checkpoints along the
highway and leading up to the base, any one of which could have stopped the
vehicle and prevented the bombing.
The Taliban statement on Monday said they had met with U.S. representatives
to discuss "ending the invasion of Afghanistan" in talks that would continue on
Tuesday in Qatar.
"Peace talks and negotiations are important and essential for Afghanistan,
but not under these unacceptable circumstances," Yarmand said. "If such attacks
continue, there must be a cease-fire agreement first."
Last week, the Taliban threatened to walk away from the talks, accusing
Washington of seeking to "expand the agenda" --- presumably a reference to
American demands that the insurgents hold direct talks with the Kabul
The Taliban view the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet and have long
insisted they will only negotiate directly with Washington.