Afghan army chief, defense minister resign following attack

Cheryl Sanders
April 24, 2017

Friday's coordinated attack on the regional headquarters of the Afghan National Army in Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of the northern Balkh province, has reportedly left at least 140 soldiers dead and many more wounded.

Eight days after the USA military dropped its largest ever conventional bomb on suspected Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan, Taliban militants breached an army base in the north of the country and killed scores of local soldiers.

"The majority of our soldiers were offering Friday prayers" at the time of the assault, the ministry said in a statement, adding that "over 100 Afghan army forces were martyred and wounded".

A USA official in Washington put the toll at more than 50 killed and wounded.

The fighters, dressed in Afghan military uniforms and driving military vehicles, made their way into the compound before opening fire, the army said.

Afghan security force casualties soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to U.S. watchdog Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the commando style assault continued to rise amid the absence of official statement as of Sunday morning.

Flags flew at half-mast throughout the country and special prayers were said for the dead. The Taliban has always been known to use both methods to infiltrate the U.S-supported government military, often using coercive intimidation tactics such as kidnapping family members to convince soldiers to strike their own.

He said four soldiers in the base who had always been working for the Taliban led the attack in retaliation for killings of Taliban shadow governors in the Kunduz and Baghlan provinces. The attackers also infiltrated a dining hall where more soldiers were killed and wounded. Mr. Mohammedi said. "The two explosions alone, God forgive me if I am wrong, probably killed 80 people".

The attack starkly highlighted the difficulty of the long struggle by the Afghan government and its global backers to defeat the Taliban insurgency.

The facility in Balkh province is home to the Afghan army's 209th Corps.

Survivors also told reporters they believed without "inside help" it would not have been possible for Taliban insurgents to make their way deep into the heavily fortified military base. The United States military command in Kabul said an American air strike had killed a commander, Quari Tayib, and eight other Taleban last Monday. "We support our valuable friends and partners in the fight against terrorism", it said.

Other reports by iNewsToday