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Taliban Attack on Afghan Army Base Kills 30 Soldiers

FILE - Taliban fighters ride in their vehicle in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2018.
FILE - Taliban fighters ride in their vehicle in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2018.

Taliban insurgents stormed a key military base in northeastern Afghanistan, killing at least 30 soldiers and wounding 17 others.

Officials confirmed the casualties Thursday, telling VOA the pre-dawn surprise assault in the Khwaja Ghar district in Takhar province enabled rebels to seize all military equipment placed at the Afghan National Army (ANA) installation.

Khwaja Ghar, Afghanistan
Khwaja Ghar, Afghanistan

Provincial government spokesman, Sunatullah Timoori, said heavy fighting erupted in the area following the attack and Afghan air power is backing ground forces trying to beat back the insurgents.

Some reports said government forces suffered nearly 40 fatalities.

The Taliban’s so-called “Red Unit” commando force executed the attack, using night-vision googles, according to Afghan army officials.

The ANA base, known as "Pul-e-Momin", is considered the gateway to Taliban-held Dasht-e-Archi district in the neighboring Kunduz province.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group's fighters captured 11 security outposts before overrunning the ANA base.

In a statement sent to journalists, Mujahid claimed the insurgent offensive killed more than 70 Afghan soldiers, seized several tanks and armored vehicles along with weapons, though Taliban battlefield claims are often inflated.

Separately, the Afghan Defense Ministry disclosed Thursday airstrikes targeted a high-profile Taliban meeting in southeastern Ghazni province, killing 24 insurgents and wounding 17 others.

A ministry statement said several key rebel commanders were among the injured, including Amir Khan Mutaqi, who was a Taliban minister during 1996-2001 when the Islamist group was in control of most of Afghanistan.

The Taliban dismissed the claims as baseless “enemy propaganda”, saying it is meant only to draw the attention away from battlefield losses insurgents are inflicting on Afghan forces.

Earlier this month, Taliban fighters launched coordinated attacks on multiple locations in Ghazni, gaining new ground in the province and inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces.Ghazni is located on the main highway linking the national capital with southern Afghanistan.

The latest violence comes as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was in Brussels to attend a NATO summit debating the 17-year-old war in his country.

Thousands of NATO forces, mostly Americans, are in the country, training, advising and assisting Afghan forces battling the Taliban and fighting terrorist groups, including Islamic State.

Despite U.S. assertions of making battlefield progress, security breaches continue in Afghanistan.

International-backed efforts to persuade the Taliban to quit violence and engage in a peace dialogue with the Kabul government have also failed to produce results. The insurgency is demanding all foreign forces to withdraw from the country before it considers participating in an intra-Afghan dialogue.