The Taliban have launched a major suicide attack against a NATO base at an Afghan city airport, killing six people, including three Afghan soldiers, and wounding four civilians, officials said.
“After the attack other [suicide bombers] entered the base… and started attacking the invading forces in the base“
The nine Taliban suicide bombers who entered the airport in Jalalabad, near the eastern border with Pakistan early on Sunday, were killed in a gunbattle that lasted for at least two hours.
Along with the attackers, three members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and three civilians were killed in the Nangarhar province attack.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed to Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith in Kabul that “multiple explosions” had occurred outside the Jalalabad airbase, and that “at least three large explosions were heard”.
“Two of the attackers drove explosive-laden vehicles at a gate, detonating those vehicles, trying to make a hole for the remaining seven Taliban fighters all wearing suicide vests, to try to penetrate further into the air base,” Smith said.
A spokesperson for ISAF told Al Jazeera that “none of the attackers succeeded breaching the perimetre”.
The attackers reportedly used suicide car bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire in their assault.
“There were 14 Afghan security forces injured in this assault, and an undisclosed number of NATO forces injured,” according to our correspondent. Another four Afghan civilians were also wounded in the attack.
The airport complex has multiple layers of security, with the NATO base set well back from the first entrance, which an Afghan official said had been breached.
An Afghan security official told the AFP he had seen five dead men in Afghan army uniform, but it was unclear whether they were soldiers or Taliban attackers.
The Taliban said their suicide bombers had entered the airport, and an Afghan government official confirmed that clashes had taken place within the airport complex.
“First a fedayee [suicide bomber] mujahid… detonated a car bomb causing the enemy heavy casualties and losses and removed all the barriers,” the Taliban said on their website.
“After the attack other fedayee mujahids entered the base… and started attacking the invading forces in the base.”
The Taliban have waged an 11-year uprising against the Afghan government, which is backed by 100,000 NATO troops, since being overthrown in a US-led invasion for harbouring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The airport has come under attack on two previous occasions this year.
On February 27, six civilians, an Afghan soldier and two local guards were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on the military base, but NATO troops escaped unhurt.
The airport also came under attack on April 15, when the Taliban launched their spring offensive with a series of commando-style assaults across Afghanistan.