The death toll from a 27-hour Taliban siege of Kandahar airport has jumped to 50, Afghan officials said Thursday, after a conference in Pakistan shored up international support for reviving peace talks.
Eleven suicide attackers on Tuesday breached the high-security complex which also houses a joint NATO-Afghan base, taking families hostage and triggering firefights with soldiers.
The raid, which saw militants blowing themselves up among civilians before Afghan troops secured the area, is seen as the most serious attack in 14 years of war on the complex, the largest military installation in the south of the country.
“Fifty of our innocent countrymen, including 10 soldiers, two policemen and 38 civilians, were martyred in the attack,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
It added that 37 people, including 17 army men and four police, were wounded.
“A group of 11 terrorists attacked a bazaar and a school in the airport complex, took up positions in the area and blew themselves among civilians.”
The Taliban posted a picture on their website of the militants it said were involved in the attack. It shows 10 young men sporting trimmed beards, Kalashnikovs and identical military uniforms. The face of one of them is obscured with blue ink for unknown reasons.
A military commander in Kandahar said radio intercepts showed some assailants were speaking Urdu, a language more common in neighbouring Pakistan.
The raid coincided with Afghan President Ghani’s high-profile visit to Islamabad on Wednesday for the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference aimed at promoting regional ties.