Taliban Assault Kills at Least 23 Afghan Troops

Group claims responsibility for attack, even as negotiators meet for talks with U.S. peace envoy in Qatar

Afghan National Army soldiers march during a ceremony in a military base in the Guzara district of Herat province on February 28, 2019.
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Taliban insurgents targeted an Afghan army corps at their camp in southern Helmand province, killing at least 23, officials said Saturday.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said 16 other troops were wounded in the 17-hour battle that ended Friday night in Washer district.

Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement the insurgent group was responsible for the attack, which came even as Taliban negotiators met for talks with a U.S. peace envoy in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar.

He said Taliban fighters engaged both Afghan and foreign forces inside the camp and killed "scores."

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Zwak said U.S. advisers were present in the base, but in a separate area. "The foreign forces present at the base were all safe as the Taliban could not reach that part of the compound," he said.

Zwak said the attack began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at Shorab camp. He said three other suicide bombers also blew themselves up as gunmen followed behind them. Zwak said 16 Taliban gunmen were killed during 17 hours of fighting.

In recent years, the Taliban and ISIS have carried out near-daily attacks in Afghanistan, mainly targeting the government and its security forces.

The Taliban control several district centers in Helmand, which is a major source of the world's illegal opium supply.

Ghafor Ahmad Jawed, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, confirmed the death toll at 23 and said a clearing operation ended Friday night.