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At Least 46 Dead After Taliban Attack Airport In Southern Afghanistan


At least 46 people are dead after the Taliban attacked an airport in Southern Afghanistan. The assault coincided with a large regional conference in Pakistan about economics and security. NPR's Philip Reeves is in the country's capital, Islamabad, following developments.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The Taliban targeted the airport in Afghanistan's second-largest city, Kandahar. It's a sprawling base with airfields used by the military and civilians. The attack began Tuesday evening and went on for more than 24 hours. Officials say the dead include soldiers, civilians and Taliban fighters but no one among the 2000 international forces based there.

The timing is significant. There've been internal feuds within the Afghan Taliban since it appointed new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in July. Recently, there've been reports that these tensions led to a gunfight in which Mansoor was injured and possibly killed. The Taliban countered by releasing what appears to be an authentic and contemporary recording of Mansoor's voice. This latest attack looks like an attempt by the militants to show they're still a major threat.

The fighting at Kandahar airfield was still going on when the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani landed in Pakistan today. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been going through a very rough patch. The Afghans accused Pakistani intelligence of covertly orchestrating a resurgence of Taliban violence. Today, though, Ashraf Ghani was given an unusually lavish welcome by the Pakistanis. Much was said by both sides about the need for a united front in the fight against growing Islamic extremism. Where the words will become deeds is another matter. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.