According to AFP, at least, eight were reportedly killed in an attack by Taliban militants who stormed the airport complex in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar city on Tuesday, triggering gunfights and explosions as a conference kicked off in Pakistan with hopes of reviving peace talks with the insurgents.
Sameem Khpalwak, a spokesperson for the governor of Kandahar province, confirmed the deaths. Khpalwak had earlier said there had been several casualties among both security forces and civilians, but the exact number was unknown as the area had yet to be secured.
Several suicide bombers penetrated the airport base’s security around 6.20 pm, barricading themselves into an old school building that now contains a few shops and battling with Afghan soldiers, Khapalwak added.
After hours of intense fighting, the battle appeared to be over around 11 pm, according to a senior Afghan army officer at the base, who spoke to NYT on the condition of anonymity. However, reports of gunfire continued to come in.
The officer said Afghan officials reported 15 wounded, most of them apparently civilian shop owners who had been trapped by the battle. Some of the bodies were badly burned.
It remains unclear though as to how many Taliban insurgents had conducted the attack.
This was the second major assault in a span of 24 hours in the city recognised as the birthplace of the Taliban.
The Kandahar airfield is the most important government base in southern Afghanistan and is home to U.S. military and CIA operations in the region. Through years of war, the base’s security perimeter had never been breached — though it has been the site of at least one so-called green-on-blue insider attack against Western forces by an Afghan soldier.
Taliban gunmen were targeting residential blocks housing government employees and the joint Afghan-NATO military base at the airport, said Khpalwak.
“Several insurgents managed to breach the first gate of the complex,” he told AFP, as the battles raged.
A pro-Taliban website said that “a number of martyrdom seekers armed with heavy and light weapons entered Kandahar air base undetected” and attacked “invaders and hirelings.”
Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said the insurgents had sent 10 suicide bombers wearing Afghan army uniforms.