By Abdul Qadir Sediqi
KABUL (Reuters) – Suicide bombers struck the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring scores in a major attack that could scupper plans to revive peace talks between the United States and the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which struck the Bagram air base north of Kabul.
“First, a heavy-duty Mazda vehicle struck the wall of the American base,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “Later several mujahideen equipped with light and heavy weapons were able to attack the American occupiers.”
The Taliban spokesman claimed the attack was still ongoing. The U.S.-led military coalition said the attack was “quickly contained and repelled”.
Abdul Shukoor Qudosi, the district governor of Bagram district, said 87 people were injured and one woman was killed, and that a clearance operation was still ongoing.
Five servicemen from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition, were among those injured, the country’s defense ministry said in a statement. The majority of casualties were Afghan.
“A 30-minute clash also happened between the attackers, who obviously wanted to enter the base, and foreign forces,” said Wahida Shahkar, a spokeswoman for the governor of Parwan province, which includes the Bagram district.
Two attackers detonated vehicles laden with explosives at the southern entrance to the base, while five more opened fire. It was not immediately clear how many of the five gunmen were killed, Shahkar said.
A medical base being built for locals was badly damaged, the coalition of foreign forces in Afghanistan said in a statement. The Taliban denied this.
U.S. President Donald Trump called off talks with the Taliban in September after an attack by the group killed an American soldier. The Taliban controls more territory than at any point since being ousted from power by Afghan foes with U.S. air support in 2001.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Writing by Alasdair Pal)