A damaged mosque is seen on the grounds of an army compound outside Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province on April 25, 2017, following the deadly assault by Taliban militants on April 21. The mosque is scarred — disfigured by bullet holes, spatters of blood and traces of explosives that tell the story of the young Afghan recruits slaughtered by Taliban commandos as they prayed at their base. / AFP PHOTO / – / TO GO WITH AFP STORY Afghanistan-military-Taliban-attack-witness,FOCUS
The death toll from last week’s Taliban attack on an Afghan military base stands at 144, a senior US defense official told AFP on Tuesday.
The exact toll from the assault had been unclear, with Afghan officials ignoring calls to break down the tally it gave of more than 100 soldiers killed or wounded.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the US defense official said that in addition to the 144 killed, about 60 more security forces were wounded.
Friday’s attack on the Afghan National Army base outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif is believed to be one of the deadliest-ever Taliban attacks on a military installation.
Ten gunmen dressed in soldiers’ uniforms and armed with suicide vests entered the base in army trucks and opened fire at unarmed troops at close range in the mosque and dining hall.
“The reason so many were able to be killed is you can’t take weapons into the mosque or dining facility, you had a large group of people in a confined space,” the official said.
“We think this was a very well-planned operation, probably four to six months to plan.”
About 30 coalition forces were at a different part of the base at the time of the attack, but they were there in a train-and-advise capacity and were not involved in repelling the assault, which lasted about six hours, the official said.
Those coalition troops were likely German or US, though other nationalities may have been present too, the official said.
According to the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed between January 1 and November 12, 2016 with another 11,777 wounded.