Taliban fighters attacked the American base at Bagram, early Wednesday morning, but were unable to penetrate the compound, according to Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the American command. The gunfire lasted more than hour, wounding a dozen soldiers, and killing 10 Taliban fighters and one American contractor.
American officers said four of the insurgents wore suicide vests loaded with explosives, but the Taliban were unable to detonate their vests before they were killed. It appears that between 20 and 30 insurgents were able to enter the area surrounding the base, and took the Americans by surprise.
The attack is believed to be the start of a spring offensive of the Taliban against NATO-led coalition targets. The Islamist extremist group announced earlier this month that it will target Afghan officials, contractors, and NATO troops starting May 20, as a retaliation against deployment of new U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan.
Built in the 1980s by the Soviets and located approximately 50 miles north of Kabul, Bagram Air Base is one of the largest American bases in Afghanistan. The heavily-fortified base serves as the headquarters for the military campaign in the east of the country.
The base was attacked by a suicide bomber in February 2007 during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. The vice president was unharmed, but 23 people were killed.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy in Kabul, resulting in deaths of five U.S. soldiers. Another bombing killed two others. The latest casualties pushed the U.S. death toll in the Afghan war beyond 1,000.
Taliban insurgents governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, before they were toppled by the U.S.-led military invasion. In recent years, Taliban fighters have continued their attacks despite a strong foreign troops presence of around 140,000 in the country.