Wednesday 26 July 2017

Death toll 'as high as 140' after Taliban attack on base

Coffins containing the bodies of Afghan national Army (ANA) soldiers killed in April 21's attack on an army headquarters are lined up in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. Photo: REUTERS
Coffins containing the bodies of Afghan national Army (ANA) soldiers killed in April 21's attack on an army headquarters are lined up in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. Photo: REUTERS

Rahim Faiez

Afghan families buried their dead and the country observed a national day of mourning yesterday following the deadliest-ever Taliban attack on a military base that prompted angry calls for ministers and army chiefs to resign.

Flags flew at half-mast throughout the country and prayers were said for the dead.

The exact toll from Friday's assault in the northern province of Balkh remained unclear, with some local officials putting the number of dead as high as 140.

Authorities on Saturday raised the casualty toll to 100 in the attack on a military compound by gunmen and suicide bombers wearing army uniforms.

General Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said the militants entered the base 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 while everyone was busy with Friday prayers," he said.

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

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault.

One survivor, Afghan army soldier Mohammad Hussain, who was wounded and transported to a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif, said: "I don't know maybe they had someone inside to help them to bring the vehicle inside. 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."

The Taliban said the attack was retaliation for the killing of the Taliban governor of Kunduz province, Mullah Abdul Salam Akhund.

Irish Independent

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