herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Irish troops 'safe and well' after 20-hour kabul firefight

FOURTEEN Irish troops were "safe and well" in the Afghan capital today after the longest sustained Taliban attack on Kabul in a decade.

Nine people were killed and 23 wounded after an assault by insurgents in four coordinated attacks across the city which ended after 20 hours.

The insurgents had holed up in a 13-storey building still under construction, just 50 metres from the so-called Ring of Steel, protecting the US Embassy and the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, where the Irish troops are based.

One or two attackers detonated suicide vests at a police checkpoint, while others used the multi-storey building to fire rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s at the ISAF and US Embassy compound.

"All the Irish are safe and well and there are no casualties," a Defence Forces spokesman told the Herald.

"In all these situations, there is a scheme of defence and this went into operation at the ISAF headquarters."

Normally, there are seven Irish soldiers based in Kabul, but the Irish were in the middle of a handover.

Seven troops have been serving there for six months and are due to fly home. The others arrived in the past week.

Weapons

The Irish are well equipped with body armour and weapons.

The senior Irish officer is a Lieutenant Colonel, while several of the group are bomb disposal experts serving with the Counter Improvised Explosive Device section.

Reports said the attackers used energy drinks to keep going during the 20 hours and had stored weapons inside the partially-built building.

"They had stored RPGs, heavy machine guns and hand grenades. Some had energy drinks," two Afghan intelligence officials told the BBC.

ISAF troops returned fire from the headquarters while American and Afghan Black Hawk and Hind helicopter gunships battled the insurgents.

Afghan troops then cleared the 13 storey building floor by floor, killing the last remaining attackers.

The daring attack in the heart of Kabul was being seen as an attempt to derail the security hand-over to Afghan led forces as international forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan.

mlavery@herald.ie

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