KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – Dozens of people were killed in fighting at the airport in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar after an overnight attack by Taliban insurgents while a key district in neighbouring Helmand province fell to the insurgents, officials said yesterday.
The attack on the airport, one of the most heavily protected bases in the country, underlined the Taliban’s ability to inflict serious damage on security forces that are still shaken by the insurgents’ brief capture of the northern city of Kunduz in September.
With final mopping up operations continuing late on Wednesday afternoon in Kandahar, 24 hours after the attack began, 37 civilians and members of Afghan security forces had been killed and 35 wounded, the defence ministry said.
In addition, nine Taliban were killed and another wounded with a final survivor still resisting security forces, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the effort to repel the attack had proceeded slowly to minimise casualties.
“Afghanistan’s national army forces are bravely fighting terrorists in airport areas and are trying to act cautiously to avoid harm to civilians,” the ministry said.
A doctor at the local hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 41 people – 37 civilians and 4 soldiers – had been killed.
In a separate incident in neighbouring Helmand province, where the Taliban has been increasing pressure for weeks, insurgents captured the district of Khanishin, a major control point for drug smuggling routes through the south.