KANDAHAR: Militants laun­ched two separate attacks on Afghan security installations killing dozens of soldiers on Thursday, the latest in a series of devastating assaults this week that have left more than 120 people dead and underscored spiralling insecurity.

At least 43 Afghan soldiers were killed and nine wounded in a Taliban-claimed assault on a military base in southern Afghanistan which saw the militants blast their way into the compound with at least one explosives-laden Humvee — a tactic used in three separate attacks this week — the defence ministry said.

A security source in Kandahar put the toll at 50 dead and 20 wounded. But the real figure is likely to be higher because Afghan officials habitually understate the actual number of casualties.

A police headquarters in Ghazni also comes under attack

The militants razed the base in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district in Kandahar province to the ground, according to the ministry.

“Unfortunately there is nothing left inside the camp. They have burned down everything they found inside,” defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said.

Just two soldiers were known to have survived unscathed, with six unaccounted for, the ministry said, underscoring the shocking casualties that Afghan security forces have faced in their struggle to beat back the militants. More than 10 militants were killed, it added.

US aircraft carried out an air strike during a counterterrorism operation in Maiwand on Thursday, a spokesman for US Forces in Kabul said, though he did not specify whether the target were militants at the base.

Provincial officials said two Humvees were used in the attack which was condemned by President Ashraf Ghani. They said the assault might have been carried out with the help of insiders.

The Taliban claimed the ambush in a message to journalists that said all 60 security personnel on the base were killed.

Separately on Thursday, militants besieged a police headquarters in the south-eastern province of Ghazni, attacking it for the second time this week.

Air strikes were called in to support embattled police personnel in the ongoing assault, which has killed two security forces so far, Ghazni provincial police chief Mohammad Zaman said. The strikes were not immediately confirmed by the US Forces.

Officials said the earlier assault on the headquarters, which took place on Tuesday, left 20 people dead and 46 wounded.

Thursday’s attacks take the number of major assaults on security installations this week to four, with the total death toll climbing past 120, including soldiers, police and civilians. The Taliban used a Humvee as a bomb to blast their way into their targets in three out of the four assaults this week.

The militants have been able to steal dozens of Humvees from security forces after taking over districts and raiding military bases across the country.

US President Donald Trump vowed earlier this year to stay the course in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

But the Taliban said the recent assaults were a “clear message to the Americans and the Kabul government, that they cannot scare us with their new so-called strategy”.

“We are fighting back and winning on every front, Inshallah [God willing],” spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2017

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