Afghanistan: 'Hundreds' attacked NATO base

Afghan authorities released further details Monday of the insurgent attack at an outpost in eastern Afghanistan which killed nine American soldiers and wounded 15 others, reported CNN.

Defense ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Sunday's attack in Dara-I-Pech, in the far eastern province of Kunar, involved 400 to 500 militants. At least 100 were killed or injured, he said. The casualties also included four Afghan National Army soldiers.

The attack was the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 American troops were killed -- in the same province -- when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the fighting, insurgents used homes, shops and a village mosque for cover, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said. ISAF troops, along with members of the Afghan army, responded with firepower.

"It is quite common for them to attack our outposts," said NATO spokesman Mark Laity. "But this was a larger scale attack than normal. This was not a new tactic. They usually get defeated. We are very, very sad that we lost some people but again, their attempt to take that base failed."

Meanwhile, U.S. military commanders in the region have asked the Pentagon to send hundreds of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), designed to withstand strong explosives, as quickly as possible to its troops battling the Taliban, a senior U.S. defense official said.

The MRAPS, which are the newest armored vehicles, have a V-shaped hull that helps deflect the blast of a roadside bomb. Defense sources said the request could include between 600 and 1,000 MRAPs.

Until MRAPs began arriving in Iraq in large numbers in 2007, troops had limited protection in armored Humvees. The last several months has seen a rise in the number of U.S. and NATO troop deaths from roadside bomb blasts in Afghanistan.

On Monday a roadside bomb killed six Afghan guards who were accompanying a vehicle of a U.S.-based private security firm, the Afghan defense ministry said.

The guards, working for the Texas firm U.S. Protection and Investigations (USPI), were struck Sunday near the town of Gereshk in the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Gen. Azimi said.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the attack. But Azimi said it bore the hallmarks of the hardline militant group, the Taliban.

USPI is based in Houston, Texas, according to the company's Web site. Last December, Taliban fighters ambushed a USPI-operated convoy carrying fuel bound for U.S. military bases in western Afghanistan. Fifteen Afghan employees of the firm were killed in the attack.

Elsewhere in the south of the country, the Associated Press reported that a suicide bomber targeting a police patrol killed 24 people Sunday, including 19 civilians, while U.S. coalition and Afghan soldiers killed 40 militants during counter-insurgency operations.

On Saturday, a teenager detonated his explosives-laden vest outside an Afghan National Army camp, killing himself and three others.

In another Helmand attack, a coalition member was killed by a Sunday roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.

Since the start of coalition operations in Afghanistan, 470 U.S. troops have died, including Sunday's casualties.

Helmand -- where Monday's roadside bombing occurred -- is an important front in the war against Islamic militants. It is considered the the world's largest opium poppy growing region, and that trade has helped fund insurgent activities.

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