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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Taliban kill dozens of Afghan troops at Kandahar base

Raid takes death toll from insurgent attacks to more than 120 in one week 

Afghan National Army officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre on October 17, 2017. Militant attacks have taken a heavy toll on Afghan security forces this year despite training and equipment provided by an international coalition. Omar Sobhani / Reuters
Afghan National Army officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre on October 17, 2017. Militant attacks have taken a heavy toll on Afghan security forces this year despite training and equipment provided by an international coalition. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

The Afghanistan Taliban killed at least 43 troops at a southern military base on Thursday, taking the death toll from attacks by the insurgents this week past 120.

Of 60 soldiers manning the base in Kandahar province, 43 were killed, nine were wounded and six were missing after the militants attacked in the middle of the night, the defence ministry said.

At least 10 Taliban were also reported killed in the battle, which occurred in Maiwand, a district adjoining the volatile Helmand province.

The Taliban said it had killed 60 soldiers at the base.

The attack will underscore worries about the ability of Afghan security forces to deal with a relentless insurgency which they have struggled to contain since most foreign troops the country left at the end of 2014.

The US president Donald Trump committed to an open-ended military mission in Afghanistan in August despite criticism that it is no closer to peace despite billions of dollars in aid and nearly 16 years of US and allied operations.

The attack began when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden American-made Humvee armoured vehicle, probably captured from Afghan security forces, into the gate of the base, an army official said.

That began an hours-long assault by Taliban gunmen, which was interrupted by a second Humvee breaking all the way into the base and detonating inside, he said.

The base was left in ruins, officials said.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said the attack began with a suicide car bombing followed by an assault that overran the base.

The militants had killed at least 60 Afghan soldiers and wounded many, he said.

The Taliban have been waging an insurgency for a decade and a half in an attempt to overthrow the western-backed government in Kabul and re-establish a fundamentalist Islamic regime.

The United States and its coalition allies maintain thousands of troops across Afghanistan, including in Kandahar, to advise and assist Afghan forces as well as conduct strikes against suspected militants.

A spokesman at the coalition military command in Kabul said that US forces conducted an air strike during an operation in the Maiwand district, but did specify whether this targeted militants attacking the base.

Militants on Thursday also attacked a police headquarters in the south-eastern province of Ghazni for the second time this week.

Air strikes were called in to support embattled police in the ongoing assault, which had killed two security forces so far, Ghazni provincial police chief Mohammad Zaman said.

Twenty people were killed and 46 wounded in an attack on the headquarters on Tuesday.

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Thursday's attacks take the number of major suicide and gun assaults on security installations this week to four and increases the total death toll to more than 120, including soldiers, police and civilians.

In three out of the four assaults this week the Taliban used a Humvee vehicle as a bomb to blast their way into their targets.

The attacks come near the end of the summer fighting season, when militants traditionally intensify their offensives across the country.

They began hours after US drone strikes in the tribal region along the border with Pakistan killed more than two dozen militants, according to sources and local officials.

Tuesday's attacks killed 80 people in total and wounded nearly 300 in the bloodiest day in the war-torn country in almost five months.

The deadliest of Tuesday's assaults was on a police compound in the city of Gardez in Paktia province where Taliban militants disguised as police detonated three explosive-packed vehicles - including a truck and a Humvee - that cleared the way for 11 gunmen to enter.

At least 60 people, including Paktia police chief Toryalai Abdyani and civilians waiting to collect documents, were killed in the blasts and ensuing battle that lasted around five hours, health officials said, with more than 230 wounded.

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