Taliban attack army base, kill 26 troops

Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Taliban attack army base, kill 26 troops

  • Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived
  • Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 26 members of the security forces, a provincial official said, the latest brazen assault by insurgents to defy stepped-up efforts to resolve the country’s protracted war.

The raid on the base in northern Kunduz province came as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders — but not Kabul government officials.

The insurgents have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s government, calling it a US puppet. The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the embattled Afghan army and security forces.

In the Kunduz attack, the Taliban stormed the base, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, around 2 a.m., said Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council. There were at least 23 soldiers and three members of the local police force among those slain.

According to Ayubi, 12 troops were wounded in the Taliban onslaught, which lasted for over two hours until reinforcements arrived at the besieged base and the attackers were repelled.

“Day by day, the security situation is getting worse in and around Kunduz city,” said Ayubi, adding there are fears the city could again fall into the hands of the Taliban as it did briefly on two occasions in recent years — in September 2015 and in October 2016.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement to the media saying the Taliban were behind the Kunduz attack, claiming the insurgents had overrun three police checkpoints as the attack unfolded.

Earlier Tuesday, Afghan officials reported two more Taliban attacks that left 21 people dead, including 11 policemen killed when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province’s Baghlani Markazi district.

The checkpoint attack in Baghlan took place on Monday night and triggered a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council. Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint before reinforcements arrived, he said.

“They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added.

Earlier Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, the provincial governor’s spokesman. Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Dara-I Suf district, he said.

According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children. As the area is very remote, the villagers have their own militia to defend their homes from the insurgents.

The Taliban claimed both Baghlan and Samangan attacks.

Far from the Afghan warzone, the two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures, which starts Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving the 17-year war. That process has accelerated since the appointment last September of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticized the gathering.

Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, said Monday that the Afghan government should be at the center of any peace talks, adding that Kabul “would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape.”

Abdullah said that Taliban were the biggest obstacle to peace, but that if the Moscow meeting creates “an opening for real peace talks, it would still be a step forward.”


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.