Afghan Officials: Death Toll Rises to 45 in Taliban Attack

The violence comes amid stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the 17-year war

Jennifer Gonzalez / NBC Bay Area

Afghan officials say the brazen Taliban attack on a military base in an eastern province the previous day had killed at least 45 people, most of them military personnel.

There are fears, however, that the death toll is even higher.

Khawanin Sultani, a council member in Maidan Wardak province, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the attack also left more than 70 wounded.

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The province of Maidan Wardak is just outside of Kabul and the base also serves as a training center for a pro-government militia.

Sultani says a Taliban suicide bomber first drove a Humvee into the base and detonated his load as he rammed the vehicle into the main building there. After that, four other attackers engaged in a shootout with Afghan troops; all the attackers were killed.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media.

The Taliban, who now hold sway in almost half of Afghanistan, carry out attacks on a daily basis, mainly targeting the beleaguered security forces. The violence comes amid stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the 17-year war.

In a separate statement, the insurgents said they met again with U.S. representatives to discuss "ending the invasion of Afghanistan" in talks that would continue on Tuesday. They are meeting in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.

The Taliban threatened to walk away from the talks last week, accusing Washington of seeking to expand the agenda, presumably a reference to American demands that the insurgents hold direct talks with the Kabul government. The Taliban view the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet and have long insisted they will only negotiate directly with Washington.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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