KABUL, Afghanistan – About 20 insurgents armed with assault rifles and vests loaded with explosives launched a coordinated attack Friday against a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said. It was the latest in a series of largely futile but psychologically rattling strikes against well-fortified Western installations.
Five insurgents were killed and one captured in the strike, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. There were no Western casualties, it said.
The attack against Forward Operating Base Gardez, in Paktia province, began when “a vehicle, followed closely by four suicide-vest-wearing insurgents, attempted to breach a fortified area of the base,” the NATO force said. Combinations of car bombs and suicide bombers on foot are often used to try to breach government buildings and Western installations.
In recent months, Taliban fighters have launched what were previously unusual frontal assaults on the largest Western bases in Afghanistan – airfields at Kandahar in the south, Bagram north of the capital, and Jalalabad in the east. The aim appears mainly to show that insurgents are willing to sacrifice fighters in suicide attacks.
Also Friday, the Western military said two Afghan journalists detained by the NATO force had been freed, along with a third taken into custody by the Afghanistan intelligence service.
Afghan journalists who maintain contacts with the Taliban for newsgathering purposes sometimes fall under the suspicion of the government of President Hamid Karzai, or the Western military, or both. International press groups and human rights organizations had objected to the detentions.