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Kabul Says 37 Civilians, Nine Taliban Killed At Kandahar Airfield

Afghan security forces stand guard at the entrance gate of Kandahar Airport on December 9.
Afghan security forces stand guard at the entrance gate of Kandahar Airport on December 9.

KANDAHAR -- Afghanistan's defense ministry says 37 civilians have been killed and another 35 injured at the main military base in southern Afghanistan since Taliban militants stormed sprawling facility shortly after sundown on December 8.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said one militant was still fighting from inside the Kandahar Airfield, the second largest military base in Afghanistan, more than 24 hours after the battle began.

Waziri said nine Taliban fighters had been killed in fighting that lasted through the early morning hours of December 9.

Waziri did not comment on how many Afghan security forces or foreign troops were killed.

But Sameem Khpalwak, a spokesman for Kandahar’s provincial governor, said earlier on December 9 that troops from the Afghan National Army also had been killed.

The commander of the Afghan National Army's forces in southern Afghanistan, Bridage General Daud Shah Wafadar, provided a conflicting account of casualties from the battle.

Wafadar said a total of nine civilians, one Afghan soldier, and "14 attackers" were killed.

A spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission said early on December 9 that there were no reports of casualties among the hundreds of international personnel stationed at Kandahar Airfield, which is about 30 kilometers south of Kandahar city.

The Taliban said in a statement that suicide attackers managed to enter the base with light and heavy weapons and had attacked both international forces and troops from the Afghan National Army.

Meanwhile, other Taliban fighters seized a school building near the airfield and used it as a firing base to support their guerilla attack.

The Taliban also claimed that its fighters had killed as many as 150 people during the all-night battle.

But that claim was discounted by Afghan officials who noted that the Taliban usually exaggerates the casualty tolls of Afghan and foreign troops.

Kandahar Airfield has been the major military base and logistical supply center for operations against Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan since it was captured by U.S. special forces in late 2001.

The airfield includes housing for hundreds of foreign NATO troops, runways used for military aircraft involved in operations across southern Afghanistan, and a civilian section that includes a runway used by civilian aircraft.

The battle was going as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were attending a conference in Islamabad aimed at bolstering regional support for Afghanistan.

The Heart Of Asia conference also was being attended by the foreign ministers of India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iran.