Asia

Kandahar airport death toll jumps to 50 after Taliban attack

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard in front of a shop burned during the Taliban attack on Kandahar Airport (09 December 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Afghan army says it has now regained control

At least 50 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed in the Taliban siege of Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan, the defence ministry says.

The last of the 11 attackers was killed late on Wednesday, the ministry said in a statement. Of those killed 38 were civilians. Two policemen also died.

A number of hostages were seized by the insurgents in the 26-hour attack before Afghan forces finally regained control.

It was the latest in a series of audacious raids by Taliban fighters.

The Taliban briefly seized the northern city of Kunduz in September.

The group described its fighters as "martyrdom seekers" who had launched "thunderous attacks on foreign and hireling personnel" in Kandahar.

The Taliban assault on one of the largest air bases in Afghanistan coincided with a regional peace conference in Islamabad, where the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to help broker peace negotiations.

Hostages

The Kandahar siege continued until one gunman who had held out on his own for several hours was killed late on Wednesday.

At least 37 people, including 17 military personnel and four police, were wounded. the defence ministry said. One of the Taliban fighters was also injured

Image copyright AP
Image caption The attack continued for more than 24 hours into Wednesday evening

The airport compound houses Afghan military and civilian sections as well as a Nato base.

Tolo News TV said the insurgents were dressed in military uniform and were equipped with light and heavy weaponry.

They breached the first gate and then entered an old school building, trading fire with security forces.

Witnesses reported that some of the militants took families hostage and used them as human shields.

US Army Col Michael Lawhorn said the Taliban fighters "never physically entered the airfield". There were no coalition casualties.

Correspondents say the attack is a huge security failure because the attackers were able to smuggle weapons into an area supposed to have been made secure by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

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