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Suicide Bombers Attack NATO-Afghan Airbase

by VOA News, Sharon Behn December 02, 2012

Eight suicide bombers attacked the Jalalabad air base in eastern Afghanistan Sunday, but were killed by Afghan forces before entering the complex.

Taliban suicide bombers detonated two cars filled with explosives at the main gate of a joint NATO-Afghan airbase in Afghanistan's eastern Nangahar province at dawn Sunday. According to the Ministry of Interior, the vehicles had been stopped by Afghan forces, and follow-up attackers were killed in a fierce gunfight.

Tariq Khan, who lives in an apartment near the Jalalabad airbase said he was preparing for his morning prayers when he heard a large explosion. He said he ran to the roof of his apartment building and saw smoke rising around the base and jet fighters responding to the attack.

"Jet planes took off and fired on the attackers. The first jet flew in really low, then a helicopter took off, searching for the insurgents and fired on them. Then someone fired back from the area the helicopter was firing at," said Khan.

It was the second attack on Jalalabad this year, and the third large attack against a joint NATO-Afghan airbase since September. At least five people were killed in Sunday's attack, and local officials said several bodies were found in the area.

NATO forces spokeswoman, Lt. Amy Hession said no international forces were killed in the assault.

"We can confirm that insurgents, including multiple suicide bombers attacked Jalalabad airfield this morning. None of the attackers breached the perimeter and there are currently no reports of ISAF [International Security Forces] fatalities," she said.

Hession said there were three suicide bombers involved, and that an investigation was under way.

The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they had killed dozens of Afghan and coalition solders. The Taliban frequently exaggerate Afghan and coalition death tolls.

In September the Taliban attacked and breached a joint British-U.S. base in southern Helmand province, killing two U.S. Marines and destroying six Harrier jets. Then in October, a suicide bomber blew up a gate in a joint NATO-Afghan base in eastern Paktia province, wounding several Afghan and international soldiers.

The Jalalabad base is near a main Afghan highway linking Afghanistan to neighboring Pakistan, and is said to cover coalition forces' operations across four eastern Afghan provinces.

The attacks underscore the challenges NATO and Afghan forces are facing in stabilizing the country prior to the final pullout of international combat forces in 2014.

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