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Afghan Army Chief, Defense Minister Resign as Mattis Visits | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Afghan soldiers stand guard at the gate of a military compound after an attack by gunmen in Mazar-e- Sharif, Afghanistan, Friday, April 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Mirwais Najand)

Afghanistan’s army chief and the defense minister have resigned following the weekend Taliban attack at a northern army base that killed more than 100 military and other personnel, Afghan officials said Monday.

The resignations came as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit Monday.

President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

It was not immediately clear who would replace Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim.

The president’s official Twitter account also confirmed the resignations.

In Friday’s attack, ten gunmen and suicide bombers wearing army uniforms struck the compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army in northern Balkh province and opened fire at unarmed troops at close range in the base’s mosque and dining hall.

They used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, and several detonated suicide vests packed with explosives, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, saying it was retribution for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan.

On Sunday, the movement released the names of the attackers on the army base.

Afghan families buried their dead and the country observed a national day of mourning Sunday.

The exact toll from Friday’s assault near the provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif remained unclear, with some local officials putting the number of dead alone as high as 130.

Some officials said the toll was likely to be even higher.

Flags flew at half-mast throughout the country and special prayers were said for the dead.

The raid, the deadliest-ever by the Taliban on a military base, underscores their growing strength more than 15 years after they were ousted from power.

Meanwhile, Mattis, making his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, was due to meet top officials including President Ashraf Ghani less than two weeks after the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS hideouts in the country’s east.