Kandahar: The Taliban said Wednesday that its forces were ready to face a looming NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan`s Kandahar province as suicide bombers stormed a private security firm`s base there.
At least four security personnel and two bombers were killed Tuesday night in the suicide blasts and two-hour battle that followed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Taliban bombers carried out the attack at the security firm`s compound outside the provincial capital, also called Kandahar, said Sardar Mohammad Zazai, the provincial police chief. The base is located two km west of Kandahar city`s airfield, the main base for NATO-led foreign troops in the region.
More than 30 guards and civilians working at the security firm`s base were injured in the attack.
In a statement posted at its website Wednesday, the Taliban took responsibility for the attack, saying three of its bombers stormed the main compound for Supreme, a logistics and private security company that transports supplies for NATO troops in southern Afghanistan.
The statement claimed that 15 security personnel were killed and 60 injured while nearly 60 vehicles were also destroyed.
Tuesday`s attack occurred amid an increase in the number of Taliban-led attacks in the past 10 days in Kandahar city, which killed several people, including the vice mayor.
The recent series of attacks came amid preparations for a major military operation in Kandahar province, the birthplace and spiritual home of the Taliban.
Afghan and NATO military officials said the offensive has already begun and would get a bigger push in the coming months when around 10,000 extra US troops arrive in the region. The fresh soldiers are part of 30,000 additional US forces that in December were ordered deployed in Afghanistan.
Wary of the safety of its workers because of deteriorating security in the city, the United Nations ordered around 200 of its Afghan staff to stay indoors while evacuating its international staff to Kabul.
The move was criticized by Ahmad Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai`s younger brother and head of Kandahar`s provincial council. Karzai said Tuesday that the situation was under control in the city and called on the world body to resume its work.
Wednesday`s Taliban statement said the attack against the security firm countered Ahmad Wali Karzai`s claims made earlier in the day and said the militant group had "full readiness" to face the NATO operation in the coming months.
The Afghan military and NATO aims to break the Taliban-led conflict in Afghanistan by defeating the militants in Kandahar, the main hub of their activity.