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Taliban kills eight soldiers at army HQ in northern Afghanistan

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: At least eight Afghan soldiers were killed and 11 wounded on Friday when Taliban gunmen dressed in uniforms talked their way past checkpoints and attacked a military headquarters in northern Afghanistan, officials said.

The attack occurred near a mosque on the base in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, as soldiers were leaving Friday prayers, said army spokesman Nasratullah Jamshidi.

Six attackers in two military vehicles told guards at the base gates that they were carrying wounded soldiers and urgently needed to get in, he said.

After killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, one attacker was killed and the other five arrested, Jamshidi said.

The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a prolonged war with Taliban insurgents as well as other militant groups.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the fighters set off an explosion, allowing suicide bombers armed with small arms to breach the base.

“Our fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan army stationed there,” he said.

Other army officials confirmed that the attackers entered the base in disguise.

The base is the headquarters for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, which covers most of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province where there has been heavy fighting.

A number of German and other foreign soldiers are based in Mazar-i-Sharif, including about 70 who advise the corps headquarters as part of a NATO-led multinational mission to advise and train the Afghan security forces.

German military says no German or international troops were involved in the attack.

“To our knowledge, no Germans were affected. Nor were any other soldiers in the multinational force harmed,” said a spokesman for the German Operations Command.

The NATO command in Kabul called the attack “murderous and reprehensible”.

(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Alison Williams)

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12 soldiers die in clash with Islamist militants in the Philippine south

MANILA: Twelve soldiers, including a young lieutenant, were killed in a clash with Islamic State-linked rebels on a remote southern island in the Philippines, an army spokesman said on Monday as the army offensive entered its fifth day.

Major Filemon Tan said five soldiers were also wounded in an 1-1/2 hour firefight in the jungles of Patikul town on Jolo island as troops pursued a large formation of the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group.

“The fighting was really intense, we lost 12 men,” Tan said. “You can really expect heavy casualty from both sides due to volume of fire from both sides. We don’t know how many from the enemy died but there could be more than 30 rebels.”

A young army lieutenant leading the troops was killed in a rebel ambush.

More than 20 Abu Sayyaf rebels had died since Thursday when the military launched an air-and-ground offensive in Patikul, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops to “destroy” the militant group.

The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnapping and beheading captives, has dogged successive Philippine governments, entrenching its network with vast sums of ransom money in what has become one of Asia’s most lucrative kidnapping rackets.

Security experts say the Muslim rebels are motivated less by Islamist ideology and more by the tens of millions of dollars from kidnappings.

Two Canadians and a Filipino teenager were executed this year by the Abu Sayyaf. Last week, two Indonesians escaped captivity but there was speculation the Abu Sayyaf freed them after their families paid their ransoms.

Eight Indonesians, eight Filipinos, five Malaysians, a Dutch bird watcher and a Norwegian resort manager are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf, It was not known the hostages were in Patikul jungle when the assault began on Thursday.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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