Attack on base in Afghanistan kills two coalition soldiers
A fierce attack on a coalition base in southern Afghanistan left one U.S. and one Canadian soldier dead, along with nearly three dozen insurgents killed in the assault and an ensuing battle. Four other coalition soldiers were wounded in the battle, which occurred Wednesday night at a forward operating base in Helmand province, officials said.
The early morning attack was repelled by soldiers and air support, U.S. military officials said. In pursuing the attackers, coalition troops “defeated a large enemy element that was attempting to retreat into sanctuaries,” a military news release read. The counterattack included the destruction of what U.S. officials called “two Taliban headquarters buildings.”
“Coalition forces fought bravely and defeated a significant enemy element. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our soldiers and mourn [them],” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-76, said in the release.
Three of those wounded in the battle — which began in the early morning darkness and continued into the daylight hours — were Canadian soldiers, said Canadian Brig. Gen. David Fraser. There was no information immediately available on the status of those wounded in the incident.
The U.S. military did not release the name of the slain American soldier, but the Canadian killed was identified as Pvt. Robert Costall of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Large caches of weapons and explosives were found inside the Taliban compound and were destroyed, officials said.
“The capturing of these two compounds with boots on the ground produced significant intelligence and allows us to continue to put pressure on the enemy,” Tata was quoted as saying.
Helmand province is considered a center of both Taliban holdouts and the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan, and has been the site of several serious clashes in recent weeks. Wednesday’s attack on the base came one day after a roadside bomb killed six Afghan soldiers and an attack on a police checkpoint in Kandahar that left two Afghan officers dead.
On Wednesday, a reputed Taliban spokesman called news agencies to claim responsibility for the string of attacks, saying that the traditional spring upsurge in violence has begun.
“The weather is warming and Taliban attacks on coalition and Afghan forces have begun,” the spokesman, Mullah Mohammad Hanif, was quoted by news agencies as saying.
At least 12 American servicemembers have been killed so far this year in fighting. Last year was the deadliest for American troops in Afghanistan, with 59 killed in action.
The Canadian contingent arrived earlier this spring and has been taking over areas formerly patrolled by U.S. troops from the Southern European Task Force, which is now returning to bases in Italy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.