Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban raid on military base

KABUL, Afghanistan– Taliban militants killed 18 soldiers in a pre-dawn assault on a military base in Afghanistan’s western Farah province, the Ministry of Defense said, in the deadliest of a string of attacks that shook Afghanistan on Saturday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said two Afghan soldiers were also injured in the 3 a.m. raid on a small base in Balabluk district.

A Defense Ministry statement said “a large number” of insurgents were killed during the confrontation, but did not specify how many.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to journalists.

Other attacks were carried out in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province and the national capital, Kabul, where a pair of deadly attacks last month — a bomb in an ambulance and a hotel siege — had already renewed doubts over Afghan authorities’ ability to keep people safe.

Civilian casualties

Three people were killed and five others injured in Saturday’s suicide attack in the Shashdarak area of Kabul, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told CNN. All the casualties were civilians, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the attack happened around 8:30 a.m. local time near the Kabul Green Zone, approximately one kilometer (about half a mile) away from where the US Embassy, NATO and other diplomatic compounds are located. The suicide attacker was on foot, he said.

NATO was aware of the attack but Afghan forces were leading the response efforts, Capt. Tom Gresback, public affairs director at Resolute Support Headquarters, told CNN.

“According to initial reports, no Resolute Support or USFOR-A members were injured in this incident,” Gresback said, referring to the NATO-led mission and US forces in Afghanistan.

The US Embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the incident.

Checkpoint targeted

In Helmand province, two Afghan National Army service members were killed in Nad Ali district by an attacker driving a military vehicle packed with explosives, a statement from the Helmand media office said.

Earlier Saturday, an attacker riding an explosives-laden motorcycle had sought to target a security checkpoint in the same area. However, he detonated his explosives before reaching the target after he was identified by Afghan security forces, the statement said.

Afghan security personnel examine the site of a car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah on Saturday.

A suicide attacker also injured at least eight people when he detonated a car bomb in the city of Lashkar Gah, the regional capital, Helmand provincial spokesman Omar Zwak told CNN.

Two policemen, women and children were among those hurt in the blast, Zwak said.

Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, also claimed responsibility for the Helmand attacks in a statement sent to journalists.