Afghan Taliban launch major attack on Kandahar airport

09 December 2015

Explosions and gunfire rang out as Taliban militants stormed the airport complex in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Tuesday, officials said. The fighting is still on.

Reports quoting Afghan officials said at least 19 people have been killed and the Taliban said they are holding several hostages in homes and at a school as heavy fighting continued at the airport in the Afghan city of Kandahar.

It is unclear if any militants have been killed in the fighting.

The incident coincides Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's visit to Pakistan for a regional conference attended by Pakistan, India and the US where they are expected to discuss peace talks with the Taliban.

Meanwhile, AFP quoted Kandahar airport director Ahmadullah Faizi as saying that some passengers waiting to board a commercial flight to India are feared to have been trapped inside the airport's civilian terminal, at some distance from the fighting.

"The insurgents managed to breach the first gate of the complex," Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, told AFP, adding that there was no immediate information on casualties.

The airport compound houses the joint Nato and Afghan military headquarters.

Mohammad Mohsin Sultani, the military spokesman in Kandahar, said the exact number of attackers was unclear and Afghan troops were engaged in a heavy gunfight with them.

The Taliban attack comes a day before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is due to visit Pakistan for a regional conference that had boosted hopes for a revival of peace talks with the insurgents.

"A number of mujahideen martyrdom seekers equipped with heavy and light weapons entered Kandahar airport and have attacked invading forces," the Taliban said in a statement.

The raid comes after days of fevered speculation about the fate of Taliban supremo Mullah Akhtar Mansour following reports that he was critically wounded in an internal firefight.

The Taliban released an audio message on Saturday purportedly from Mansour, vehemently rejecting reports of any shootout as "enemy propaganda".

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