Taliban attacks NATO post as David Beckham visits British troops

THE Taliban claimed responsibility yesterday for a night-time assault on NATO’s biggest base in southern Afghanistan, in which insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons tried to storm Kandahar air field.

It was the second such attack on a major military installation this week and came on the eve of a meeting between Britain’s new Foreign Secretary William Hague and President Hamid Karzai. Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded in Saturday night’s assault, but there were no reports of deaths, officials said.

Artillery and machine-gun fire reverberated through the base several hours after the attack began. Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8pm local time and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter, officials said.  One of the rockets hit a shop-lined boardwalk where soldiers go in the evening to socialise.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said its fighters attacked the base from two sides and fired more than 15 rockets. It was the third major attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan in six days.

The attacks follow a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive against NATO forces and Afghan government troops — their response to a promise by the Obama administration to squeeze the Taliban out of their strongholds in the southern province of Kandahar.

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