Taliban militants assault Kandahar airport in Afghanistan

Reports of casualties, which include civilians, vary from nine to 18 killed.
By Fred Lambert  |  Updated Dec. 8, 2015 at 11:08 PM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A group of heavily armed Taliban militants stormed the Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing and injuring several people.

Officials said the militants simultaneously targeted a residential housing area for government employees and a joint Afghan-NATO military base inside the airport. Reports of casualties, which include civilians, vary from nine to 18 killed.

At least nine militants wearing suicide vests breached the front gate of the facility in what a pro-Taliban website referred to as an attack "against domestic and foreign forces."

Security forces said a group of the attackers had entrenched inside a school. It is unclear whether all of the militants were killed, but the fighting reportedly ended late Tuesday, the BBC reported.

Regional corps commander General Daud Shah Wafadar told Voice of America he was targeted in an attack that killed his bodyguard and injured another.

"I was going back to my residence from work when I came under attack, but I escaped unhurt," Wafadar said. "One of the attackers managed to enter the house of an officer next to my residence and has taken the family hostage."

A nearby resident told Al Jazeera he was advised to remain indoors so Afghan or NATO forces would not mistake him for an attacker as they secured the area.

The assault came one day after the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar, killing three officers, according to Al Jazeera. Two militants were killed in the incident.

The Taliban have throughout the year focused a series of attacks against Afghan soldiers and police after NATO troops handed the security operation to local forces late last year.

The militants seized various territories -- such as the Musa Qala district of Helmand province in August and the northern city of Kunduz in September -- but have in each case withdrawn in the face of counter-attacks by Afghan troops backed by U.S. airstrikes.

There are at least 12,000 NATO personnel still deployed to the country providing training, advice and assistance to local forces. Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that number would be maintained through 2016.

Afghan officials said dozens of people were killed and injured, meanwhile, during fighting between rival Taliban factions in the city of Herat, in the Shindand district, where a Taliban breakaway group has entrenched.

The inner conflict reportedly stems from disagreements over allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who was named the group's leader in July after the militants announced the death of their former leader and founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The Taliban on Saturday released an audio message in which a man claiming to be Mansoor refuted reports by the Afghan government that he was killed by fellow militants during an internal dispute in Pakistan.

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