Local officials belie Kabul version, put base attack toll at 65

January 23, 2019


KABUL: Afghan security forces inspect the site of the Taliban attack in Maidan Shar, the capital of Maidan Wardak province, on Monday.—AP
KABUL: Afghan security forces inspect the site of the Taliban attack in Maidan Shar, the capital of Maidan Wardak province, on Monday.—AP

GHAZNI: At least 65 people were killed in a Taliban-claimed attack on an Afghan intelligence base, sources said on Tuesday, contradicting an official toll in the latest high-casualty assault on beleaguered Afghan forces.

Monday’s attack in central Wardak province targeted an intelligence training facility, officials have said, meaning information remains difficult to independently verify.

The assault, in which militants detonated a Humvee packed with explosives before gunmen opened fire, was followed by a day of confusion, with authorities giving conflicting casualty numbers to media.

“We took about 65 bodies out of the rubble yesterday,” Mohammad Sardar Bakhyari, deputy head of the Wardak provincial council, said on Tuesday. A senior security official gave an even higher figure of at least 70 killed.

Later on Tuesday the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) — the intelligence agency — announced the toll had been 36 dead and 58 wounded.

Afghan authorities are known to downplay casualty figures as their forces continue suffering what experts describe as “unsustainable” losses since Nato pulled its combat forces from the country in 2014. Monday’s attack was set to hit already shaky morale.

Earlier, provincial officials said just 12 people had been killed, while other media reported tolls topping 100 deaths.

The Humvee blast at the NDS base in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Wardak province and some 50 kilometres south of Kabul, caused the roof of the compound to partially collapse, images from the scene show.

“Then at least three other attackers in a Toyota car who were following the Humvee entered the compound,” Wardak provincial council member Abdul Wahid Akbarzai said.

The attackers were killed quickly, he said, but most of the casualties were caused by the roof collapse.

“It is a big loss,” council head Akhtar Mohammad Tahiri said. “The NDS forces are better trained and equipped than the Afghan police and army soldiers who have been dying in record numbers.” He added the militants were dressed in uniforms used by Afghan special forces. Nearby residents described hearing a “heavy explosion”.

“I saw black smoke,” Sediqullah, a Maidan Shahr resident who goes by one name, said.

The blast shattered glass inside his house, he said, adding that some of his family members had been injured.

The attackers struck a day after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Logar province’s governor, killing at least seven security guards.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019