Fifty Afghan security forces, civilians killed in airport siege
Afghan security forces inspect damages after clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. AP PhotoThe last of 11 Taliban insurgents who infiltrated Kandahar airport was killed late on Dec. 9, more than 24 hours after the attack was launched, the country’s Defense Ministry said, with the death toll among civilians and security forces rising to 50.
The attack on one of the largest air bases in Afghanistan coincided with a regional peace conference in Pakistan where President Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to help restart peace talks with the Taliban that were broken off earlier this year.
The ministry said operations against the attackers, who took up position in a part of the complex used for accommodation, had proceeded slowly to limit the number of civilian casualties, according to Reuters.
In all, 38 civilians, 10 soldiers and two police officers were killed in the fighting, while 37 security forces and civilians were wounded. It said the 11 “terrorists” who took part in the assault were killed, according to the Associated Press.
Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that the militants had taken families hostage, using them as “human shields” after storming the sprawling complex, and slowing down the military’s clearance operation.
“The fighting started around 6:00 pm [on Dec. 8] and intensified over the night,” 30-year-old university student Izatullah, who lives inside the complex, told AFP.
“Soldiers were calling on Taliban attackers to let women and children go, but the attackers declined. We could hear children screaming during the fighting,” he added.
Afghan forces have struggled to roll back Taliban advances since the U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of last year.
The sprawling airport, known as Kandahar Air Field, has a military and a civilian section, as well as a NATO base. No casualties were reported among the thousands of international military and contractors based at the heavily fortified site.