Several Afghan soldiers at a check-post post the attack on a military base in Afghanistan.. (Photo: AP/Mirwais Najand)
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Afghanistan Declares Day of Mourning as Army Base Toll Rises

The Afghan government declared 23 April as a national mourning day to pay tributes to scores of army personnel who died in a Taliban attack at a military base in Balkh province.

At least 10 Taliban militants disguised as army personnel on Friday sneaked in at 209 Shaheen Base Headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif city, opening fire on unarmed and unsuspecting soldiers as they prayed at a mosque in the base.

The toll continued to rise as of Sunday morning while there was no official statement on it. Local media cited officials as saying that the deaths have surpassed 150 and over 80 have been injured.

The toll was likely to rise as many of injured were in a critical condition, officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and MEA, Gopal Baglay, on Saturday condemned the attack strongly.

The attack was launched near a mosque on the base in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, as soldiers were leaving for their Friday prayers, said army spokesman Nasratullah Jamshidi.

The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a prolonged war with Taliban insurgents and other militant groups.

The attackers in two military vehicles told guards at the gates that they were carrying wounded soldiers and urgently needed to enter, he said.

After killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, one attacker was killed and the other five arrested, Jamshidi said.

A number of German and other foreign soldiers are based in Mazar-i-Sharif, including about 70 who advise the corps headquarters as part of a NATO-led multinational mission to advise and train the Afghan security forces.

To our knowledge, no Germans were affected. Nor were any other soldiers in the multinational force harmed.
Spokesman of German Operations Command

The statement was echoed by American officials.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attackers had set off an explosion, allowing suicide bombers with small arms to breach the base's defences.

The base is responsible for much of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province where there has been heavy fighting between the security forces and the Taliban.

The NATO command in Kabul called the attack "murderous and reprehensible".

(With inputs from PTI and IANS.)