A Taliban suicide bomber driving an American Humvee packed with explosives led an assault on an Afghan base in the central Wardak province earlier today. Taliban gunmen then stormed the base, which was used as a training center by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and housed elite Afghan commando forces.
Initial casualty reports indicated that possibly dozens were killed, but an Afghan official told Reuters the death toll has climbed to more than 100 people.
A Twitter account attributed to the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujhaid, quickly claimed responsibility for the operation. A pair of his tweets can be seen below:
According to Mujahid’s account, the attack began early in the morning. A “martyrdom seeker” known as Abdul Hadi al-Helmandi detonated an “explosives-laden Humvee after entering the base, destroying the entire base & trapping dead/wounded gunmen under rubble.” Independently produced photographs from the scene do show heavy damage at the base.
Two other “heavily armed martyrdom seekers,” identified as “Hafiz Abdullah Ghaznawi and Hafiz Asadullah Junaid Zabuli,” then entered the facility and targeted the remaining Afghan forces, according to Mujahid.
The names given for the three attackers are meant to emphasize that they are from Afghanistan — specifically the provinces of Helmand, Ghazni and Zabul. This point was underscored in a separate account of the raid published at the Taliban’s main website, Voice of Jihad.
The Taliban’s media team has also circulated three images of its so-called “martyrs.” The images of the three jihadis dressed in uniforms can be seen below. Curiously, the face of one of three is blurred.
An unnamed senior Afghan defense official told the press that the bombing and subsequent raid took a devastating toll on the security forces. “We have information that 126 people have been killed in the explosion inside the military training center, eight special commandoes are among the dead,” a senior Afghan defense ministry official in Kabul told Reuters.
Both Reuters and TOLOnews corroborated that at US-made Humvee was used as the suicide vehicle improvised explosive device (SVBIED). “According to eyewitnesses, all the attackers were dressed in NDS uniforms,” TOLOnews added.
The Taliban routinely attacks Afghan security forces and the military, which have suffered from high rates of attrition. It is part of the Taliban’s plan to hollow out the Afghan government’s forces, as the jihadists seek to resurrect their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan throughout the country.
The group’s “martyr squad” is deployed for high-profile operations such as the one in Wardak. The Taliban carried out a similar attack on an Afghan Army corps headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh in Apr. 2017. The suicide squad was dressed in military garb for that assault as well.
Taliban’s images of three attackers responsible for Wardak raid: