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Kabul Says Taliban Killed More Than 50 At Kandahar Airfield

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard in front of a shop burned during the Taliban attack on Kandahar Airport in Kandahar on December 9.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's Defense Ministry says Taliban militants killed more than 50 people when they attacked and infiltrated the country’s second-largest military base this week -- the sprawling Kandahar Airfield.

In a December 10 statement, the Defense Ministry said the dead included 38 civilians, 10 Afghan National Army soldiers, and two police officers.

It said Afghan women and children were among the dead civilians and that more than three dozen people were wounded in a battle that lasted more than 24 hours.

The ministry said 11 Taliban militants were killed. No casualties were reported among the hundreds of foreign coalition troops stationed at the airfield.

The battle began when suicide attackers stormed the airfield shortly after sundown on December 8.

One militant held out on his own inside the military base, which also has a civilian area, until late on December 9.

Kandahar Airfield, located about 30 kilometers south of Kandahar city, has been the staging ground and logistical supply center for NATO and Afghan military operations across southern Afghanistan since late 2001.

Hundreds of NATO-led coalition troops are still stationed at the airfield. NATO says there were no reports of casualties among foreign coalition troops as a result of the Taliban attack.

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 guerrilla attack.

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

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

The battle was going as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were attending a conference in Islamabad on December 9 aimed at bolstering regional support for Afghanistan.

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

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP