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02:15 - Source: CNN

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Mattis arrives in Afghanistan after two-day trip to India

Taliban claims responsibility for rocket attack

CNN  — 

Defense Secretary James Mattis was the target of a failed rocket attack near a key Afghanistan airport Wednesday, the Taliban said, though the attack occurred after he had left the airport.

Hours after Mattis landed, the rockets were fired at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport from an unknown location and landed in an open area, according to Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. He did not reveal how many rockets were fired.

Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already left the airport at the time of the incident, Danish said. No one was injured.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility and said Mattis’ plane was the target of the attack, the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, tweeted.

Up to 40 rounds of munitions hit the airport, according to a US military official, 29 of which were rocket-propelled grenades. The nature of the other munitions was not immediately known.

The official said the munitions were fired toward a guard tower and hit the south side of the airport.

An Afghan special forces unit responded to the attack, searching houses close to the airport on the suspicion that the rockets were fired from them, Danish added.

A statement released by the international coalition in Afghanistan, Resolute Support, accused insurgents of “using civilians as shield and cover” and said that they “detonated suicide vests” which the coalition said endangered a great number of civilians.

“The Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222 responded quickly to confront the attackers and end the assault,” the statement added, referring to the Afghan government’s elite counterterrorism unit.

The coalition also said that US aircraft supported the Afghan security operation with airstrikes, saying that one of the missiles used malfunctioned, causing several civilian casualties.

“Tragically, one of the missiles malfunctioned, causing several casualties,” the statement said. It is unclear if the civilians were killed or wounded.

“Resolute Support deeply regrets the harm to non-combatants. We take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties, even as the enemies of Afghanistan continue to operate in locations that deliberately put civilians at very high risk,” it added.