Taliban Suicide Bomber Kills Four At Largest NATO Airbase In Afghanistan
Four people were killed and at least 14 injured when a man wearing a suicide vest set off an explosion inside Bagram Airfield – the largest NATO military base in Afghanistan and one of the most heavily protected places in the country – early Saturday.
According to NBC, the attack occurred around 5:30 a.m. local time as people were gathering for a post-Veterans Day fun run. There was no immediate word on the identities of the victims.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement of the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Twitter, Reuters reported.
Bagram has been targeted by militants in the past but this is the first time a bomb has exploded inside the base. Bagram, just north of the capital Kabul, has been used as the main military base and airfield by the US-led forces and NATO over the past 14 years.
Update on Bagram explosion: 4 killed, approx. 14 hurt. Info to follow pic.twitter.com/sV0AHzGbz9
— Resolute Support (@ResoluteSupport) November 12, 2016
Quoted by NBC, the official said that the suicide bomber chose the time and location because he “was looking for an opportunity to do the most damage.”
“To the family and friends of those who lost their lives today, we share your loss and our thoughts are with you,” U.S. Army General John W. Nicholson said in the statement. “We offer you our deepest condolences. For the family and friends of those wounded in today’s attack, let me assure you they are receiving the best care possible, and we will keep them in our thoughts today.”
General John W Nicholson, US Army commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement: ”[To] the family and friends of those wounded in today’s attack, let me assure you they are receiving the best care possible, and we will keep them in our thoughts today.”
He said the incident was being investigated but did not disclose the nationalities of the casualties.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) November 12, 2016
According to BBC, a local government spokesman said the attacker entered the base early in the morning and was standing in a queue with Afghan labourers reporting for duty when he detonated his vest.
It was unclear how someone got into the base with a suicide vest: Bagram is a heavily guarded military base with many layers of security and protection. The outermost layer is guarded by Afghan forces and second and more inner layers of security are guarded by US forces.
High walls, security cameras, and watch towers on the outer perimeters and inside the base are just some of its formidable security measures. A surveillance balloon also watches the entire area.
Every person entering the base is searched, in many cases escorted, and must have a pre-arranged meeting with someone inside. It also has retinal scans for all visitors.
The security measures serve not only to protect military personnel on the base, but also to safeguard expensive state of the art military tools, including fighter jets and unmanned aerial technology.
US presidents visiting the country fly into Bagram, one of the most heavily guarded places in Afghanistan, because it is seen as more secure than landing in Kabul.
The base was put on lockdown following the attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack had been planned over four months and had inflicted “heavy casualties on US invaders”. Last December, a Taliban suicide bomber riding a motorbike killed six US soldiers in a village near Bagram in one of last year’s deadliest attacks on foreign troops.
The attack on Bagram comes just a day after the German consulate in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan was hit by a Taliban suicide bomb blast that killed six civilians and wounded some 120 others. The Taliban said on Friday the attacks were carried out in retaliation for a recent coalition air strike in Kunduz which reportedly killed some 30 civilians.
Correspondents say the Taliban are stepping up their attacks before the onset of winter.