Taliban attacks largest NATO base in Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents armed with rockets and grenades attacked the largest NATO base in Afghanistan, sparking hours of clashes.

Taliban attacks largest NATO base in Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents armed with rockets and grenades attacked the largest NATO base in Afghanistan at dawn Wednesday, sparking hours of clashes.

The assault on Bagram Airfield came one day after a suicide car bomber killed five US soldiers, a Canadian colonel and 12 Afghans in Kabul.

The fighting was continuing late into the morning.

The attack on Bagram air base, about an hour's drive north of Kabul and holding mainly U.S. troops, began in the pre-dawn hours when Taliban insurgents blew themselves up near the base's gates.

It continued with sporadic fire of rockets and small arms outside the base. One rocket landed inside the base, causing minor damage, but no insurgents managed to get inside Bagram, according to NATO.

Helicopter gunships hovered about the base.

We're "always prepared" to deal with attacks on our base, the response this morning was immediate," said Lt. Col. Clarence Counts, a spokesman for the Bagram base.

Four suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the base's gates. The Taliban said others managed to get inside, but the group may exaggerate their operations.

Senior police official Lutful Rahman said security forces were searching for one other bomber.

The sprawling base is in the fertile Shomali plains and surrounded by hundreds of mud houses of a nearby village.

"It was 3:30 in the morning when I heard gunshots and four explosions," said Mohammad Najib, who lives close to the base.

"Minutes later two helicopters were firing heavily into orchards around the base," he said.

"Taliban campaign"


Taliban have increased attacks over the past 12 months in Afghanistan's heavily guarded capital, but strikes on NATO military bases are much rarer.

The militia threatened a new nationwide campaign of attacks from May 10 targeting foreign contractors and the international military force.

"The Taliban are trying to show their reaction to the expected plan of NATO's operation in Kandahar in coming weeks" said Noor Ul-Haq Ulomi, a former general during the ex-communist regime in the 1980s.

"(They) want to show ahead of it that they are strong as before and even getting stronger ... They want to show that with their small groups they are able to conduct organised attacks on NATO forces in Kabul and on their base in Bagram," he said.

Around 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Kabul, Bagram is run primarily by the US military and is the biggest NATO base in the country.

With connecting flights across Afghanistan and abroad, the airfield is a transit hub for much of the 130,000-strong US-led NATO force, which is being boosted to 150,000 by August to step up the offensive against the Taliban.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Mayıs 2010, 11:19
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