Afghan officials say at least 50 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in an attack by Taliban militants on an airport in the southern city of Kandahar and the ensuing clashes with security forces.
“Fifty of our innocent countrymen, including 10 soldiers, two policemen and 38 civilians, were martyred in the attack,” the Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement added that 37 people, including 17 army soldiers, were injured in the attack.
An anonymous Western official described the incident as “the most serious attack we’ve witnessed against the largest military installation in southern Afghanistan.”
Late on Tuesday, a group of 11 Taliban militants assaulted the heavily fortified civilian and military airfield in Kandahar, which also houses a NATO base, taking a number of people hostage.
However, Afghan security forces managed to repel the attack, which lasted until Wednesday night, following heavy clashes with the militants. All the assailants were reportedly killed in the operation.
The siege is the latest in a series of major gains by Taliban militants against Kabul’s forces in recent months.
In late September, Taliban militants briefly took control of Afghanistan’s northern city of Kunduz. The seizure is viewed as a significant setback in the Afghan army’s fight against the militant group.
The overnight raid on the Kandahar airport came as a summit, called the Heart of Asia, is underway in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to enhance efforts for regional peace.
Afghanistan has been witnessing violence since the United States invaded the country in 2001 as part of its so-called war on terror. The offensive removed Taliban from power, but insecurity still remains in some provinces. The violence has also spilled over into Pakistan.