Taliban suicide bombers attacked a joint US-Afghan air base in eastern Afghanistan early yesterday, detonating explosives at the gate and sparking a gunbattle that lasted at least two hours with American helicopters firing down at militants before the attackers were defeated.
The attackers and at least five Afghans were killed, officials said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
It was the largest clash at the Jalalabad air base since February, when a suicide car bombing at the gate triggered an explosion that killed nine Afghans, six of them civilians.
In yesterday’s attack, two vehicles packed with explosives barreled towards the main gate of the base at about 6am local time.
The first vehicle, a four-wheel-drive car, blew up at the gate, said Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. Guards started shooting at the second vehicle before it too exploded, he added. It was unclear if the explosives were detonated by the attackers themselves or by shooting from the guards.
Two Afghan university students and three other Afghan civilians working at the base were killed, Mashreqiwal said. He did not know if the three were private guards, members of the security forces or civilian employees.
Nine attackers took part in the assault in total, he said. Three were killed in the suicide blasts and another six died in the ensuing fighting that lasted a few hours.
Major Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the international military force in Afghanistan, said that helicopters “were deployed and used” but it was unclear if they were key to killing the militants.
The Nato military coalition described the attack as a failure.
“We can confirm insurgents, including multiple suicide bombers, attacked Jalalabad Airfield. None of the attackers succeeded in breaching the perimeter,” Lt Col Hagen Messer, a spokesman for the international military coalition, said in an email.
He said that the fighting had ended by mid-morning and that reports showed one member of the Afghan security forces was killed. Several foreign troops were wounded, but Messer did not give any numbers or details.
“The final assessment of what happened this morning is not yet complete, but initial reports indicate there were three suicide bombers,” he said.
A car bomb has exploded near a mosque in Syria’s Homs province, killing at least seven people, according to the country’s news agency and activists.
Homs has been a frequent battleground in the 20-month Syrian civil war.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the number of dead from the bombing may increase, because some of the wounded are in critical condition.
The Sana news agency did not refer to casualties. It said the bomb exploded near the Omar Bin al-Khattab mosque in the al-Hamra district of Homs.
The official news agency claimed that on the outskirts of Homs, the Syrian army killed scores of rebels in an offensive on their hideouts.
Meanwhile, the Observatory said the Syrian army had launched air strikes on the northern city of Aleppo.