Taliban attack on army base; over 100 Afghan soldiers dead
The toll of soldiers killed in late Friday's Taliban attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan, the latest in a string of deadly assaults against that country's military sites, has risen to more than 100, the Afghan defence ministry said on Saturday The ministry, however, did not give a breakdown of the casualties in the hours-long attack near Mazar-i-Sharif city.
The US military had initially said that "more than 50" Afghan soldiers were killed, while an Afghan army source who was on the base at the time put the death toll as high as 150, with dozens more wounded.
"They entered the compound using two army trucks with machine guns on top of them. They opened fire on everyone. And then they entered the mosque and dining room, killing everyone indiscriminately," Mohammad Hussain, an army officer wounded in the attack, said as he was treated in hospital.
Two of the attackers blew themselves up in the raid, which was claimed by the Taliban and which underscores rising insecurity as Afghanistan braces for an intense spring fighting season. All were dressed in Afghan army uniforms, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that no civilians were killed.
Noorullah, a second officer injured in the attack, speculated the militants may have had "inside help", noting they had to pass through at least seven check posts before entering the compound. The defence ministry said Afghan forces had killed all the attackers, without specifying how many there were. Earlier it had said one of the assailants had been detained.
The military source at the base said there were at least 10 attackers, adding that the soldiers were "young recruits who had come for training". The toll could change, the defence ministry said in a statement, adding it would provide more information once an investigation was completed.
Afghan officials have been known to minimise casualty figures in some major attacks on military sites, such as in early March when gunmen disguised as doctors stormed the country's largest military hospital in Kabul, killing dozens.