Taliban bombers target key US Afghanistan base as talks resume
Taliban suicide bombers targeted a key US military base in Afghanistan Wednesday in a major attack that killed two civilians and wounded more than 70 others, officials said, amid renewed peace talks between the United States and the militants.
The early morning assault began when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near Bagram military base in Parwan province, north of the capital Kabul, according to local officials.
Seven more gunmen, some wearing suicide vests are believed to have then entered the building -- which was under construction and not operational -- in order to use it as a launching pad for attacks against the nearby US base, local officials said.
An Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said on Twitter that all the attackers inside the hospital compound were killed fighting Afghan and foreign forces.
At least two Afghan civilians, including one woman, were killed while 73 others were wounded in the explosion that damaged houses up to 300 metres (yards) away, Rahimi said.
A Taliban spokesman later claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that "tens" of US and Afghan soldiers had been killed or wounded.
In a WhatsApp message Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants had detonated a truck bomb outside Bagram base, but denied Taliban fighters had taken up positions inside a hospital.
Afghan and US officials could not immediately confirm if a truck bomb had been used in the attack.
"The attack was quickly contained and repelled ... but the future medical facility was badly damaged," NATO's Resolute Support mission said in a statement.
It said there were no US or coalition casualties but Georgia's defence ministry said five of its soldiers received minor injuries in the attack.
- Just as talks resume -
The assault comes as Washington resumed talks with the Taliban on Saturday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled them after a Taliban suicide attack killed 12 people including a US soldier, in Kabul.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the latest attack "in the strongest possible terms" without saying whether it would affect talks.
"This is precisely the kind of activity that we're working to reduce," Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
"The people of Afghanistan deserve an end to these senseless acts of violence. The United States stands with the Afghan people, their security forces and their desire to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan," he said.
The US negotiator with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been leading the talks with the Taliban that could see a withdrawal of thousands of US troops.
The State Department, in announcing the resumption of talks, said that Khalilzad would also try to find a way for a ceasefire -- a key demand of the Afghan government.
Trump made a surprise visit to Bagram on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with his troops and meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
"The Taliban wants to make a deal and we're meeting with them and we're saying it has to be a ceasefire," he told reporters, confirming the resumption of the stalled talks.
On Monday, The Washington Post reported on thousands of US government documents which showed that senior American officials had insisted progress was being made in Afghanistan despite clear evidence the war had become unwinnable.