Militants attack army post near military academy in Afghan capital
Islamic State claims responsibility, 11 soldiers killed, 15 wounded
Ministry of Defence officials said the five militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles attacked the outpost near the well-defended academy just before dawn. Photograph: AP Photo
Gunmen attacked an army outpost near one of Afghanistan’s main military academies on Monday. Eleven soldiers were killed and 15 wounded before the attackers were subdued, the defence ministry said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack near the Marshal Fahim military academy in the western outskirts of the capital, Kabul, according to the militant group’s Amaq news agency.
It came two days after an ambulance bomb in the centre of the city killed more than 100 people and just over a week after another attack on the Hotel Intercontinental, also in Kabul, killed more than 20.
Both of those attacks were claimed by the Taliban.
Ministry of Defence officials said the five militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles attacked the outpost near the well-defended academy just before dawn.
Two of the attackers blew themselves up, two were killed in fighting and one was captured, the ministry said in a statement announcing that the fighting was over. Five soldiers were killed and 10 wounded, it said.
“The Afghan National Army is the country’s defence force and makes sacrifices for the security and well-being of the people,” the ministry said.
While militants claiming allegiance to Islamic State operate in mountains in the eastern province of Nangarhar, little is known about the group and many analysts question whether they are solely responsible for the attacks they have claimed in Kabul and elsewhere.
The attack came as the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, was due to visit Kabul.
Indonesia has the world’s biggest Muslim population and Widodo has proposed that Indonesian Islamic scholars could help promote Afghan peace, media reported recently.
Message to Trump
Earlier, resident Mohammad Ehsan said he heard a series of explosions coming from the area beginning at around 5 am and lasting for at least an hour, with smaller blasts continuing at less frequent intervals.
In October, a suicide attacker rammed a car full of explosives into a bus carrying cadets from the academy, known as the Defence University, which is home to one of Afghanistan’s main officer training schools, killing 15 of them.
The wave of attacks has put pressure on president Ashraf Ghani and his US allies, who have expressed growing confidence that a new more aggressive military strategy has succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centres.
The United States has stepped up its assistance to Afghan security forces and increased its air strikes against the Taliban and other militant groups, aiming to break a stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.
However, the Taliban have dismissed suggestions they have been weakened and said Saturday’s bombing was a message to US president Donald Trump.
“The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don’t expect Afghans to grow flowers in response,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term the Islamist militants use to describe themselves.
Saturday’s blast in one of the most heavily protected parts of the city, close to foreign embassies and government buildings, was the worst seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb near the German embassy killed 150 people in May.
With Ghani embroiled in confrontation with provincial powerbrokers defying central rule, pressure is mounting on the government to set aside political divisions and focus on security.
The United States and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan of helping the Taliban in a bid to undermine old rival India’s growing influence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, which denies accusations it fosters the Afghan war, condemned the attack and called for “concerted efforts and effective cooperation” to tackle militancy.
Afghanistan declared Sunday a day of mourning for the victims of Saturday’s blast and said Monday would be a day off to allow care for the victims’ families.