Whole lotta shakin' in Afghanistan

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“Wave of suicide bombers” tries to storm US base in eastern Afghanistan

“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain…” (Qur’an 9:111)

By RAHIM FAIEZ  The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan

Suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a U.S. military base near Afghanistan-Pakistan border in a daring attack on a major American installation, officials said Tuesday. Six insurgents detonated their vests after being surrounded.

* Suicide bombing in Pakistani hospital kills at least 23

The attack came a day after a suicide bomb outside the same base killed 10 civilians and wounded 13 others. The fighting was still going on early Tuesday, said U.S. coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry. There have been no American deaths, he said.

The militants failed to gain entry to Camp Salerno in Khost city after launching waves of attacks just before midnight on Monday, said Arsallah Jamal, the governor of Khost. The base is just a few miles from Pakistan’s border.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, said Afghan soldiers, aided by U.S. troops, chased and surrounded a group of insurgents, and that six militants blew themselves up when cornered. Seven other militants died in those explosions and a rolling gun battle, he said.

“(The Afghan National Army) is saying that anytime we get close to them, they detonate themselves,” Jamal said.

At least 13 insurgents and two Afghan civilians died in the attack, officials said. Five Afghan soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Azimi said.

Officials also said Tuesday that French soldiers were involved in a large battle 30 miles outside of the capital and that casualties were feared.

Qazi Suliman, the district chief in Surobi, says a patrol of French soldiers came under Taliban attack on Monday, sparking a three-hour gunbattle. Suliman says he has a report that 13 militants were killed.

Suliman says that fighting picked up again on Tuesday.

A French Defense Ministry spokesman in Paris says a clash involving French troops is ongoing but that he couldn’t release any information about French casualties.

The Taliban, meanwhile, appeared to confirm the account on the suicide bombers. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said 15 militants had been dispatched for the attack on Salerno. Seven blew themselves up and eight returned to a Taliban safehouse, he said.

Jamal said the bodies of at least two dead militants were outside the checkpoint leading to the base’s airport, both of whom had on vests packed with explosives, Jamal said. It wasn’t clear if those militants were among the dead in Azimi’s count.

Militants have long targeted U.S. bases with suicide bombers, but coordinated attacks on such a major base are rare.

The attack comes a day after the top U.S. general in the region, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, issued a rare public warning that militants planned to attack civilian, military and government targets during the celebration of Independence Day on Monday.

More than 3,400 people — mostly militants — have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.