Monday, May 24, 2010

Taliban says it attacked NATO base

Taliban says it attacked NATO base

Last Updated: Sunday, May 23, 2010 | 11:28 PM ET

The Taliban claimed responsibility Sunday for a nighttime assault on NATO's largest base in southern Afghanistan.

At least five rockets struck Kandahar Airfield base Saturday in the initial attack, wounding several coalition soldiers and civilian employees, said navy Cmdr. Amanda Peterseim, a spokeswoman for NATO forces.

The sounds of heavy artillery and machine-gun fire rang throughout the base, where several hundred Canadian troops are stationed, in an assault lasting nearly four hours.

Officials have refused to discuss any details of the injuries or release the nationalities of those wounded. They also won't say how many insurgents were involved in the attack or whether any were killed, wounded or captured.

Insurgents unleashed rockets and mortars, starting around 8 p.m. local time. They later tried to breach the northern perimeter of the base but were repelled, according to NATO officials.

One of the rockets hit a shop-lined boardwalk where soldiers socialize in the evenings.

A bloodstain could be seen on the walkway outside a T.G.I. Friday's restaurant on the boardwalk Sunday morning, said Maura Axelrod, a reporter with HDNet who was inside the base.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the incident, said the rocket hit about 50 metres away from the restaurant in front of a coffee shop on the boardwalk.

Rockets fired

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said fighters attacked the base from two sides and fired more than 15 rockets.

The attack was the third major assault on NATO forces in Afghanistan in six days and followed a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive against NATO forces and Afghan government troops.

Last Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, killing 18 people, including five Americans and a Canadian NATO service member.

The next day, dozens of Taliban militants attacked the main U.S. military base at Bagram Air Field, killing an American contractor in fighting that lasted more than eight hours.

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