Taliban Attacks Afghan Air Base

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Al Jazeera English

Taliban Attacks Afghan Air Base

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US soldiers and Afghan policemen stand guard on a road leading to the US air base in Bagram. Taliban gunmen armed with rockets and grenades attacked the largest NATO base in Afghanistan at dawn Wednesday, sparking hours of clashes that killed 11 militants and wounded nine soldiers. (AFP/Shah Marai)

At least seven Taliban fighters have been killed
and nine Nato troops wounded in an assault on Bagram air base in
Afghanistan, Nato says.

Nato's International Security Assistance
Force, or Isaf, said on Wednesday: "Seven insugents have been killed...
during the attack on Bagram that included rockets, small arms and
grenades."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the
attack, saying 20 suicide bombers took part in the assault, which began
overnight.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the group's spokesman, told the
AFP news agency: "Four suicide bombers activated their explosive belts
and fighting is continuing at the base."

'Brazen' attack

Bagram,
which is near Kabul, the capital, is one of the biggest military bases
in Afghanistan and mainly holds US troops as well as a detention centre
where al-Qaeda-linked fighters and "terror" suspects are held.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Bagram, described the
attack as "quite brazen and daring".

She said the attack started
"about 3am when US guards at Bagram spotted a car and started shooting
at it".

"That's
when this long gun battle that lasted for about eight hours happened,"
said our correspondent.

"It was very intense [the battle] between 3am and until about
daylight ...

"[A] Taliban spokesman said that the attackers detonated themselves
in front of the main gate and managed to enter the airfield.

"But that is something Nato completely refutes. They do say that
rocket and mortars have landed inside the base. Nine soldiers have been
wounded [and] none, according to Nato, is in critical condition."

Major Virginia McCabe, a press officer at Bagram, said: "We know
there are claims of suicide bombers but we are not aware of it at this
time."

Helicopter gunships hovered about the base as the attack
continued.

"We're always prepared to deal with attacks on our base, the response
this morning was immediate," said Lieutenant-Colonel Clarence Counts, a
spokesman for the Bagram base.

Spring offensive

Wednesday's attack follows the Taliban's announcement that they
would launch a spring offensiveagainst the Afghan government and
foreign forces in Afghanistan in response to Nato's plans for a military
campaign on the group's southern stronghold of Kandahar.

On
Tuesday, a suicide car bomber attacked a Nato-led military convoy
during rush hour in Kabul,
killing at least 18 people and six foreign
troops. Five of the troops were Americans and one was Canadian.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Tuesday's blast, one of the
deadliest attacks in Kabul in months.

So far this year, 202 Nato soldiers have died, marking January to
mid-May period in the Afghan war the deadliest.   At least 520
Nato troops died in 2009, the deadliest year so far for US-led foreign
troops since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime.   
Since summer 2009, one or two Nato soldiers have died on
average each day.


 Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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