Afghan soldiers guard the body of a suicide attacker near US military camp Salerno on the outskirts of Khost city. Four of the attackers were wearing suicide vests.
Camp Chapman – the installation where 7 CIA officers were killed last year – was also attacked.
The militant assault in the border province of Khost began about 4 a.m. when dozens of insurgents stormed Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, according to NATO and Afghan police.
Two attackers managed to breach the wire protecting Salerno but were killed before they could advance far onto the base, NATO said. Twenty-one attackers were killed — 15 at Salerno and six at Chapman — and five were captured, it said.
Three more insurgents, including a commander, were killed in an airstrike as they fled the area, NATO said.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting. Four U.S. troops were wounded, NATO officials said.
U.S. and Afghan officials blamed the attack on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based faction of the Taliban with close ties to al-Qaida. Camp Chapman was the scene of the Dec. 30 suicide attack that killed the seven CIA employees.
Afghan police said about 50 insurgents took part in the twin assaults. After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were scattered, said Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.
“Given the size of the enemy’s force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily we prevented it,” he said.