Insurgents attack 2 NATO bases in east Afghanistan, no coalition casualties reported

By Rahim Faiez, AP
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Insurgents attack 2 NATO bases in east Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents launched pre-dawn attacks on a pair of NATO bases in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday but were beaten back after inflicting little damage, the coalition and Afghan police said.

NATO said no coalition or Afghan security force troops were wounded, while 13 insurgents were killed — including four who were wearing suicide vests — and five captured.

The assaults on the sprawling Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman came around 3 a.m., just as area residents were rising for early morning prayers.

The area, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Kabul, is a hotbed of Taliban activity and Camp Chapman was the scene of a major attack in December, when a suicide bomber entered the base and killed seven CIA employees.

Afghan police said about 50 insurgents used rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, but had been repelled.

Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said they found the bodies of 14 militants outside Salerno and five others had been captured alive. He said police believed the bodies of more insurgents would be found.

After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were driven off, Ishaqzai said.

“Given the size of the enemy’s force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily we prevented it,” he said.

Small arms fire could still be heard in the area at midmorning, while NATO helicopters patrolled overhead.

Police captured a pickup truck laden with ammunition along with a light truck packed with explosives that had become stuck in deep mud, according to Maj. Wazir Pacha of the provincial police headquarters. Bomb specialists were preparing to defuse explosives aboard the truck, which had been booby-trapped, he said.

NATO said the dead insurgents were members of the Haqqani Network, a group with deep ties to al-Qaida accused of launching frequent raids across the border from neighboring Pakistan.

Three of the insurgents were killed in an airstrike on a truck in which they were fleeing the attack on Salerno, including Mudasir, a senior Haqqani explosives expert suspected of arranging suicide bomb attacks, NATO said.

Separately, NATO said one of its patrols mistakenly fired on a vehicle carrying private security contractors in Wardak province west of Kabul, killing two men.

It said the patrol had come under Taliban fire early Saturday, then spotted a vehicle approaching fast from behind with a man shooting out its window.

“It is believed that the private security contractors were returning fire against the same insurgents who had just previously attacked the coalition vehicle, and had increased their speed to break contact,” the coalition said in a statement.

The incident was under investigation, it said.

Coalition forces and private security contractors frequently come under small arms fire along the stretch of road known as Highway 2 that runs west through perilous country toward the city of Herat.

On Friday, homemade bombs killed three U.S. troops in southern and eastern Afghanistan, bringing the total number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this month to 55, including 35 Americans, according to a count by The Associated Press. July was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, with 66 killed.

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