Taliban Attack Afghan Army Base

From NY-Times:
Dozens of soldiers were killed on Friday when Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers in military uniforms stormed an Afghan Army base in northern Afghanistan, Afghan and Western officials said.

The attack on the 209th Corps in Balkh Province began around 1 p.m., in a crowded area where soldiers, most of them unarmed, were leaving Friday Prayer or eating lunch.

A Western military official in Kabul, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the number of deaths could reach 70 or more. Zabiullah Kaker, a member of the Balkh provincial council, said people inside the army corps had told him that at least 66 soldiers were killed in the attack and that 74 were wounded.

But Ahmad Javid Salim, a spokesman for the Afghan Army’s commando forces who was at the scene of the attack, said at least 20 Afghan Army soldiers were killed and 30 were wounded.

Six assailants dressed in military uniforms drove in two army vehicles past the first checkpoint, according to Lt. Col. Abdul Qahar Aram, a spokesman for the corps. At the second checkpoint, one of the suicide bombers blew up his explosives, allowing the militants to enter, take up positions and start firing at soldiers, who were leaving prayers or making their way to lunch.

“The dining room and the mosque are close to each other,” Colonel Aram said. “It was lunchtime; they entered both the mosque and the dining room.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack through a spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid. In a message posted on Twitter, Mr. Mujahid said the assailants were led by four soldiers inside the base who had long been Taliban infiltrators.

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