Taliban suicide bombers attacked a joint US-Afghan air base in eastern Afghanistan early today, detonating explosives at the gate and sparking a gunbattle that lasted at least two hours with American helicopters firing down at militants before the attackers were defeated. The attackers and at least five Afghans were killed, officials said. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility. It was the largest clash at the Jalalabad air base since February, when a suicide car bombing at the gate killed nine Afghans.
Two vehicles packed with explosives barreled toward the base's main gate around 6am local time. The first vehicle blew up at the gate, said a provincial police spokesman. Guards started shooting at the second vehicle before it too exploded, he added. Two Afghan students were caught up in the attack and killed, as were three other Afghans working at the base. Nine attackers took part in the assault in total, three of whom were killed in the suicide blasts and another six gunmen who died in the ensuing fighting that lasted a few hours. "The final assessment of what happened this morning is not yet complete, but initial reports indicate there were three suicide bombers," said a military coalition spokesman.