The Taliban released a videotape produced by the Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda-linked subgroup, that documented the June 1 suicide assault on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province, Afghanistan.
The video was released by Manba al Jihad, “a media unit of the Haqqani Network within the Afghan Taliban,” and was published on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the video. The full video was nearly 69 minutes long. A 10-minute segment of the video was published on the Liveleak site by a known Internet jihadist sympathizer.
FOB Salerno is the largest base in southeastern Afghanistan. It is highly fortified, and hosts extensive surveillance assets and a US rotary wing task force. The attack on FOB Salerno resulted in the deaths of seven civilian contractors and one US soldier inside the base; scores more soldiers were said to have been wounded in the attack. The Haqqani Network fighters were able to penetrate about 50 to 60 meters before being gunned down during a firefight. The base also suffered heavy damage; photos of the aftermath show the caved-in roof of the FOB’s large dining facility and the wreckage of the demolished post exchange. An RC-East spokesman told The Long War Journal that the damage to the facilities resulted from the large blast wave that followed the initial car bomb [see LWJ report, New details emerge about complex attack on FOB Salerno].
The shorter video summary of the assault that was released on Liveleak shows the Haqqani Network fighters preparing for the assault, and the suicide bomber just before he left to attack the US base. The heavily-armed fighters, who are dressed in US Army digital camouflage uniforms and sneakers, are seen entering a white minivan.
The suicide bomber is seen laughing and smiling as he stands by a flatbed truck that is packed with explosives. He then poses with a bouquet of flowers in the cab of the truck and delivers a message before driving off to strike Salerno. In a previous statement on the attack, the Taliban identified the suicide bomber as Mawlawi Sahib Shamsullah. He was “a resident of Paktia” who “sacrificed his luxurious life in Khaleej [the Persian Gulf], a thriving business, bounties of the world and the love of his 4 children for Allah.” Shamsullah was chosen because he “was familiar with the surrounding area.”
The footage cuts to a long shot of the truck driving toward the perimeter of FOB Salerno. The suicide bomber detonates at the edge of the base, next to a row of HESCO barriers. The huge explosion sends dust and debris high into the air, and subsequent footage shows a massive shock wave. Haqqani Network fighters, who are filming from three different angles around the valley containing the base, are heard shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “Allah is greatest,” as the bomb detonates.
The Taliban previously stated that more than 10 tons of explosives and other bomb-making material was used in the truck bomb. “According to the Afghan Taliban’s communiqués about the raid, the explosives-laden vehicle was packed with 8 tons of potassium chloride, 2 tons of TNT, 20 bundles of detonation cord, and several anti-tank mines,” SITE reported.
The footage then shows the white minivan packed with the assault team drive up to the perimeter of the base (it is unclear whether this happened after the explosion or simultaneously with the suicide truck bombing). The minivan stops, the Haqqani fighters dressed in the US Army uniforms exit, and then calmly walk onto the base through a breach in the wall.
The sound of gunfire is heard as the white minivan, now empty, begins to emit black smoke. In a previous statement on the attack, the Taliban claimed that the assault team torched the truck after exiting. Civilians are seen in the foreground running away from the attack.
Various camera angles show smoke over the base, accompanied by the sound of sirens and an enormous small arms engagement. US helicopters are seen circling overhead as the firefight rages.
At the end of the shorter video, the 10 members of the assault team are shown outside the van, holding their weapons and a white flag of the Taliban, just prior to the assault. The Taliban previously identified the the 10 fighters as “Azeem Khan from Paktia; Ateequllah, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Ya’qub, Ibraheemi and Kareemullah from Ghazni province’s Gilan district; Zabihullah Shabir from Ghazni’s Maqur district; Hafiz Saifullah from Paktika’s Khushamand; Amdadullah from Paktika’s Wazikhwa; Abdullah from Nangarhar and Abdur Raheem from Logar.”
The Haqqani Network, which operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is linked to both al Qaeda and the Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The Haqqani Network supports and shelters a constellation of regional and international terror group groups in North Waziristan, and fights NATO and Afghan forces across the border. Numerous Haqqani Network leaders have been added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global terrorists for their support of al Qaeda and terrorism in Afghanistan [for more information on the Haqqani Network, see LWJ report, US adds senior Haqqani Network leader to terrorist list].
The Haqqani Network has previously released propaganda at Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s propaganda website. In November 2011, Voice of Jihad released footage of Haqqani Network fighters going though training at a camp situated along the Afghan-Pakistani border and commemorated the suicide assault team that attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28, 2011.
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