Taliban kill dozens at army HQ in northern Afghanistan


Reuters

UPDATE 3-Taliban kill dozens at army HQ in northern Afghanistan


(Adds U.S. comment, death toll)
    By Abdul Matin
    MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, April 21 (Reuters) - Dozens of
Afghan soldiers were killed or wounded on Friday when Taliban
gunmen disguised in Afghan army uniform talked their way past
checkpoints and attacked a military base, officials said.
    A U.S. official in Washington put the toll at more than 50
killed and wounded. Afghan officials offered conflicting numbers
of casualties in the incident, at a major headquarters in
northern Afghanistan often used by foreign military advisers.
    The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a
prolonged war with Taliban insurgents and other militant groups.
    The attack was launched near a mosque on the base in
Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, as soldiers were
leaving Friday prayers, said army spokesman Nasratullah
Jamshidi.
    Six attackers in two military vehicles told guards at the
gates that they were carrying wounded soldiers and urgently
needed to enter, he said.
    After killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others
with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, one attacker was killed
and the other five arrested, Jamshidi said.
    Another Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity
as he was not authorised to speak publicly, said more than 20
soldiers had been killed and 50 wounded.
    A number of German and other foreign soldiers are based in
Mazar-i-Sharif, including about 70 who advise the corps
headquarters as part of a NATO-led multinational mission to
advise and train the Afghan security forces.
    "To our knowledge, no Germans were affected. Nor were any
other soldiers in the multinational force harmed," said a
spokesman for the German Operations Command. The statement was
echoed by American officials.
    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attackers had
set off an explosion, allowing suicide bombers with small arms
to breach the base's defences.
    "Our fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan
army stationed there," he said.
    The base is the headquarters for the Afghan National Army's
209th Corps, responsible for much of northern Afghanistan,
including Kunduz province where there has been heavy fighting.
    The NATO command in Kabul called the attack "murderous and
reprehensible".

 (Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Phil
Stewart in Washington; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Andrew
Roche)
 ((JoshSmith1@thomsonreuters.com; +93 796710457;))

Keywords: AFGHANISTAN ATTACK/ (UPDATE 3, TV, PIX)



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