Afghanistan declares day of mourning as Taliban attack toll rises in Balkh province
The Afghan government declared Sunday as a national mourning day to pay tributes to scores of army personnel who died in a Taliban attack at a military base in Balkh province.
Kabul: The Afghan government declared Sunday as a national mourning day to pay tributes to scores of army personnel who died in a Taliban attack at a military base in Balkh province.
At least 10 Taliban militants disguised as army personnel on Friday sneaked in at 209 Shaheen Base Headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif city, opening fire on unarmed and unsuspecting soldiers as they prayed at a mosque in the base.
"In order to pay tributes to the honourable and brave Afghan soldiers who martyred during Friday prayers in Shaheen 209 Corps mosque, the President declared Sunday as a National Mourning Day," a presidential palace statement said on Saturday.
The toll in the Taliban stealth attack continued to rise as of Sunday morning while there was no official statement on it.
Local media cited officials as saying that the deaths have surpassed 150 and over 80 have been injured.
The toll was likely to rise as many of injured were in a critical condition, officials said.
Several bodies were on Sunday morning handed over to their families or shifted to their houses.
"Special prayers will be held in the Presidential Palace mosque and at mosques across the country and the national flag will be at half-mast at home and Afghan diplomatic missions abroad," the statement said.
The heavily armed militants in two military vehicles stormed the base after passing several security gates under the guise of carrying wounded persons to the base hospital.
President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday inspected the site and chaired an emergency security meeting at the base, ordering a serious investigation into the deadly attack. He later visited the injured at the Corps hospital.
"This terrorist attack is fully contradictory to all human values and Islamic teachings," the statement said.
The Taliban insurgency has been on the rampage since the beginning of 2015, as the Afghan forces assumed full responsibility for Afghanistan's security from the US and NATO troops.
Pakistan has rejected allegations made by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani that it had provided 'close air support' to Taliban militants
Since early May, violence has surged across several provinces including in Kandahar after the insurgents launched a sweeping offensive just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal