The Taliban released a video clip that shows their fighters preparing for the Sept. 14 suicide assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The video includes footage of a planning session in front of a whiteboard that has a map of the base; the video also shows two of the fighters delivering their wills. The al Qaeda organization and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee were likely involved in the attack, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
The video clip was produced by Al Emera (the Emirate), the Taliban’s media arm, and was released today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official propaganda website. The clip is a segment of a larger video; the Taliban said that a “full detailed video of the same operation will be released at a later date.”
During the Sept. 14 suicide assault on Camp Bastion, a 15-man Taliban team penetrated the perimeter at the airbase, destroyed six USMC Harriers and damaged two more, and killed the squadron commander and a sergeant. Fourteen of the 15 members of the assault team were killed, while the last was wounded and captured. Camp Bastion is a sprawling military base shared by US Marines and British troops that is located in the middle of the Dashti Margo desert in Helmand province.
In the Taliban video clip released today, several fighters are seen dressed in US Army digital combat fatigues. The faces of many of the members of the assault team are digitally blocked. Two members of the team provide their wills; one of them speaks in English.
The English-speaking fighter said he is conducting the attack to avenge insults against the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed, and said the mission was targeted at “[President] Obama, Crusaders, and other non-Muslims.” The man, who appears to be the tactical commander of the raid, then gives a briefing in front of a whiteboard that shows a map of a section of the airbase where the assault took place. He speaks in Pashto,while the writing on the whiteboard is in Urdu, a language commonly spoken in Pakistan.
The map details the fence and the locations of guard towers, aircraft shelters, helicopters, strike aircraft, and other buildings. The point selected by the Taliban for penetrating the perimeter is close to a series of hangars that they believed housed helicopters and aircraft.
During the assault, the Taliban penetrated the perimeter and broke into three teams, according to the International Security Assistance Force. Once inside the perimeter, the Taliban attacked the hangars, aircraft, and other buildings. In addition to destroying six Harriers and damaging two more, the Taliban attack teams managed to blow up three aircraft refueling stations and damage six aircraft hangars.
The Taliban released a statement about the attack on Sept. 15, and named two of the units that were involved: the “Khalid ibn al Walid group” and the “Omar bin al Khattab group.” Khalid ibn al Walid was a companion of the Prophet Mohammed and a renowned military commander; Omar bin al Khattab was also a companion and was the leader behind the expansion of the caliphate in the 700s.
In the statement accompanying today’s video, the Taliban exaggerated the death toll and the damage inflicted during the Camp Bastion assault. They claimed that the raid “resulted in the death of 47 invaders while more than 34 others were wounded,” and said that “more than 11 enemy Harrier Jets and helicopters were also eliminated as well as a several fuel reserves and aircraft hangers completely destroyed.”
Lashkar al Zil likely involved in the Camp Bastion attack
The raid likely had the support of al Qaeda and Pakistani terror groups, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. The Camp Bastion suicide assault is similar to several other attacks on major military installations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In two recent attacks in Pakistan, against Mehran Naval Base in Karachi and the Kamra Air Base, the assault teams were able to destroy Pakistani aircraft. Al Qaeda and the so-called Punjabi Taliban, as well as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, have been linked to those assaults.
The Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, al Qaeda’s military arm that supports jihadist operations and integrates elements of local and regional jihadist groups, has been linked to suicide assaults on Bagram Air Base and Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost [see LWJ report, Jihadists launch complex assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand, for more details on the assaults in the region].
In addition to the member of the suicide assault team who was wounded and then captured during the raid, ISAF subsequently captured a local Taliban commander who “is suspected to have provided support to the insurgents.”
A US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that the Mullah Dadullah Front, the Taliban subgroup led by Mullah Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee and current overall military commander of the Afghan Taliban, was involved in the Camp Bastion assault. Zakir and the Mullah Dadullah front are closely linked to al Qaeda and have adopted the group’s tactics, including suicide bombings [for more information on Zakir and the Mullah Dadullah Front, , see LWJ reports, The Gitmo Files: 2 of Afghanistan’s most wanted hid leadership roles while in US custody, and Financier for ‘Mullah Dadullah Front’ captured in Afghan south].