At least 46 dead in Kandahar airport Taliban assault

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Dec. 9, 2015 at 8:28 AM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A Taliban assault on Afghanistan's Kandahar International Airport has so far left 37 civilians and Afghan security forces dead and another 35 injured.

Nine Afghan Taliban militants have died. Several people, including women and children, were taken hostage in Tuesday's attack. Some degree of fighting continued Wednesday, but it is unclear if the Taliban threat has ended.

The headquarters for the joint NATO and Afghan military effort is in the airport. The Taliban 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."

The Taliban said "martyrdom seekers" entered the base undetected to start "thunderous attacks on foreign and hireling personnel," killing up to 80 soldiers -- an unverified claim.

The assault came one day after the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar, killing three officers, Al Jazeera reported. 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Musa Qala district of Helmand province in August and the northern city of Kunduz in September -- but have in each case withdrawn in the face of counter-attacks by Afghan troops backed by U.S. airstrikes.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.

Fred Lambert contributed to this report.

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