A group of heavily armed Taliban militants attacked a major U.S-run airbase in Afghanistan, sparking gun battles that killed nearly a dozen insurgents and an American contractor. At least nine U.S soldiers were also wounded in the fighting. The militant strike comes a day after a suicide car bombing struck a NATO convoy in the capital Kabul, killing six foreign troops along with 12 Afghan civilians.
The pre-dawn Taliban assault targeted the Bagram airbase, which is located 60 kilometers north of Kabul and is run primarily by the U.S military.
Speaking to VOA by telephone, a U.S spokeswoman at Bagram, Major Virginia McCabe, gave details of the fighting, "Several insurgents were killed in the attack this morning on Bagram Air Base that included small arms fire, mortars, rockets and grenades. Our servicemen responded immediately," she said.
Taliban militants quickly claimed responsibility, saying 20 fighters mostly suicide bombers took part in the assault that began overnight.
NATO officials described four of the insurgents killed as intended suicide bombers.
The attack on one of NATO's biggest bases in Afghanistan comes a day after a suicide car bombing targeted a military convoy of the international alliance on a busy road in Kabul. The attack killed 18 people, including five American troops and a Canadian solider. The rest of the victims were Afghan civilians.
Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, warned of more insurgent attacks in the coming days. But he says the violence will not deter international efforts to bring security to the country.
"We will have difficult days like yesterday (referring to the suicide attack on the NATO convoy in Kabul). It is inevitable. This is the time of year when we see usually an effort by the insurgents to knock us of course and to try and attack the coalition and indeed the government of Afghanistan. But the overall campaign is on track," Sedwill said. "I believe that by the end of this year we will be able to demonstrate that we have the initiative and the momentum is with us, the government of Afghanistan and the government's international partners."
NATO forces are preparing to launch security operations against suspected militant bases in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. In response, the insurgents have promised to step up attacks on diplomats, members of the Afghan government, lawmakers, NATO forces and foreign contractors.