Friday, November 12, 2010

Taliban attack airport in eastern Afghanistan: authorities

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Taliban militants attacked Jalalabad airport and a military base for foreign forces in eastern Afghanistan but the strike was thwarted, officials said.

The government in Nangarhar province and NATO\'s International Security Assistance Force said that a wave of fighters attacked a security post at the airport before dawn on Saturday and at least six insurgents were killed.

\"Six attackers have been killed -- two of them died blowing themselves up and four others were killed by security forces,\" said government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzoi.

ISAF said in a statement that its troops and Afghan National Army soldiers killed eight militants but only one was wearing a suicide bomb vest.

\"The forward operating base received small arms fire from an unknown number of insurgents and after gaining positive identification of insurgent fighting positions an ANA and ISAF quick reaction force was sent to the area,\" it added.

\"Initial reports indicate no ANA or ISAF servicemembers were killed.\"

The Taliban, which regularly exaggerates details of its attacks, including foreign casualties, said that 14 suicide bombers were involved.

\"They entered the airport. Some of them have blown themselves up. Some of them are still fighting,\" Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid added several hours after explosions and firing was first heard in the vicinity.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a previous brazen daylight attack on the Jalalabad air base in June, which saw a car bomb set off and rockets fired at foreign forces.

A number of assailants were killed and two service personnel were injured during the attack, which came just days before US General David Petraeus took up his post as NATO\'s top commander in Afghanistan.

Jalalabad has more than 2,500 military and civilian personnel and is one of NATO\'s largest bases in Afghanistan after Kandahar in the south and Bagram, north of Kabul.

Kandahar and Bagram have also been targets for Taliban attacks in the past.

Saturday\'s incident came after a failed suicide bomb attack in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday, which was aimed at a convoy of foreign and local troops near a military base.

The bomber detonated his vest early, killing himself and slightly damaging the front of a Humvee armoured vehicle.

Kabul has suffered relatively lightly in recent months from the deadly guerrilla war being waged across Afghanistan against some 150,000 US and NATO troops.

Fighting is fiercest in the south, particularly in and around the Taliban\'s spiritual home of Kandahar. Tens of thousands of extra US troops were sent to the region earlier this year as part of a counter-insurgency drive.

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