Taliban claim deadly attack on Afghan army base

Khost (Afghanistan) (AFP) –


The Taliban said it carried out a deadly attack Thursday on an Afghan army base after the government ordered forces to resume strikes against the militants.

Afghan officials said a truck bomb targeted an army base in the eastern city of Gardez, killing five civilians and wounding 19 -- including five army personnel.

It comes after a particularly violent week which saw President Ashraf Ghani rescind the government's recent "defensive" stance aimed at promoting peace talks with the Taliban, and order troops back onto the offensive.

Provincial health director Welayat Khan Ahmadzai confirmed the death toll, but the Taliban claimed "tens of soldiers were killed and wounded" and denied reports any civilians died.

"After the announcement of the offensive... a martyrdom attack was carried out against an important military headquarters of the Kabul administration," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a WhatsApp message to media on Thursday.

The defence ministry said a suicide bomber detonated the explosive-laden truck before reaching the army base.

On Tuesday, gunmen stormed a hospital in Kabul killing at least 24 people, including infants and nurses.

It was followed shortly after by a suicide bombing at a funeral in the eastern province of Nangarhar which killed 32 mourners.

The attacks triggered international outrage, as images emerged of dead mothers and babies wrapped in blood-soaked blankets.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the "heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks".

"Deliberately targeting infants, children, mothers and health workers as such is especially abhorrent," a statement said.

The maternity wing of the Kabul hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), who later revealed a mother had given birth during the prolonged attack.

The government blamed the attacks on the Taliban and IS militants, and ordered troops to resume offensive operations.

The Taliban, which denied involvement, later warned they were "fully prepared" to counter any strikes.

The aggressive posturing by both sides has threatened an already fragile peace process pushed by Washington.

In February, Washington and the Taliban agreed a deal saying all foreign forces would leave the country over the next year.

Since it was signed the Taliban has not claimed any major attacks in Kabul and other cities, but has regularly targeted Afghan forces in the provinces.

Afghanistan is also grappling with a public health crisis triggered by the coronavirus.