About two dozen Taliban militants – including suicide bombers – were killed yesterday in a failed attempt to storm two US-run bases in a volatile town in eastern Afghanistan, Nato said.

The alliance said that its troops had “repelled two failed attacks at bases in Khost”, killing a total of 24 insurgents with the help of Afghan security forces.

The attackers targeted US-run Forward Operating Bases (FOB) Salerno and Chapman, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Nato’s mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“While the majority of the attacking fighters were killed outside of the FOBs, two insurgents managed to breach the perimeter and made it onto FOB Salerno,” the statement said.

About 15 rebels were killed near Salerno, six near Chapman and three others including a rebel commander in an airstrike while retreating from battle in a vehicle, the statement added.

Seven suicide bomb vests were also seized along with bomb-laden vehicles that the Islamic rebels often use in suicide attacks, the statement added.

Local police chief Adbul Hakim Is’haqzai said the assault was foiled after militants attacked (FOB) Salerno before retreating to occupy a secondary school near Camp Chapman, both in the Khost city.

In December Camp Chapman became the scene of the worst attack on US intelligence officials since 1983, when seven CIA agents were killed.

Yesterday’s assault began in the early hours of the morning when insurgents launched rockets and fired guns at FOB Salerno, Is’haqzai said. He said the attackers then turned on Chapman, closer to the city.

“The attack has been foiled,” Is’haqzai said. “We have recovered 14 bodies, those of Taliban who were killed fighting. Five Taliban have been captured alive.”

The fighting lasted for several hours with the remaining Taliban attackers shooting at security forces from positions in a corn field near the school that had been attacked earlier, he said.

A senior police official who spoke under condition his name not be mentioned said that about 25 rebels took part in the attack “most of whom have been killed”.

Residents of Khost reported hearing gunfire.

“There are gunshots being heard all around my home. I’m scared of the attackers entering my home and of being bombarded by coalition forces,” said resident Amir Shah as the the gunfight broke out near Chapman in the first hours of the day.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed contacted AFP to say the insurgent group had dispatched suicide bombers to the base.

“Twenty-eight Taliban suicide bombers have launched an attack on a coalition base in Khost,” he said from an undisclosed location.

“They have entered the base,” he said.

The Taliban are known to exaggerate their claims.

FOB Salerno was visited on August 19 by the commander of international forces in Afghanis­tan, US General David Petraeus, where he met the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, which he formerly led, a statement on ISAF’s website said.

Petraeus told them: “You are all in a tough neighbourhood and in a very challenging environment. You are faced with extreme terrain, tough weather and tough enemies.

“The insurgents you face most in this area are very tough fighters, they are experienced, generally pretty well-equipped and they know the neighbourhood,” he told the troops.

Petraeus commands almost 150,000 US and Nato soldiers in Afghanistan, fighting a vicious Taliban-led insurgency that is most intense in the south and east of the country.

Khost borders Pakistan which is widely believed to be a key source of fighters, funds and supplies for the Taliban. Also yesterday, ISAF said three insurgents including a rebel commander were killed in a precision airstrike near Selarno. It did not say if they were linked to the earlier attack on the base.

“Mudasir... had direct ties to Haqqani Network senior leadership based in Pakistan and was a teacher at a madrassa known to facilitate suicide bombers,” the force said in a statement, referring to the dead rebel.

The Afghan interior ministry also said that police in northern Afghanistan repelled a militant attack on their post, killing nine attackers.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us