Afghanistan: Soldiers' death toll in Taliban attack rises to 140; President Ghani declares national day of mourning

Namrata Tripathi
Ashraf Ghani

Afghanistani President Ashraf Ghani declared a national day of mourning on Saturday, April 22, after over a hundred soldiers were killed in an attack by Taliban militants. The extremist fighters barged into an army camp on Friday, April 21, and killed scores of soldiers in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, in one of the deadliest attacks of its kind on a military base in the country.

The exact number of casualties has not been released. However, Reuters reported that an official, on condition of anonymity, said at least 140 soldiers were killed while many were gravely injured in the attack. Another official said the death toll of the soldiers was likely to be even higher.

The Afghan President arrived at the Mazar-i-Sharif army base on Saturday and ordered the flags to be flown at half mast on Sunday in memory of the slain soldiers. Ghani also held an emergency meeting with senior security officials and called for a "serious investigation into the attack."

Ghani released a statement online condemning the deadly attack and calling it "cowardly", and the work of "infidels."

According to reports by officials, around 10 Taliban militants, dressed in Afghan army uniforms, entered the army base in military vehicles and opened fire on unarmed soldiers leaving a mosque after Friday evening prayers.

Afghanistan

The militants reportedly used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, and also detonated several suicide vests that were packed with explosives. According to witnesses, confusion and chaos prevailed at the army camp as soldiers could not ascertain the attackers' identity in army uniforms.

"It was a chaotic scene and I didn't know what to do," said one army officer injured in the attack. "There was gunfire and explosions everywhere," Reuters reported the officer as saying.

The Taliban shortly claimed he attack. Spokesperson of terrorist outfit Zabihullah Mujahid on Saturday said the attack was retribution for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan.

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