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ISAF: Insurgents in deadly attack in Afghanistan wore U.S. Army uniforms

By Barbara Starr, Chris Lawrence and Joe Sterling ,CNN
September 16, 2012 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)
The U.S.-run Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, shown in a 2010 file photo, is part of the joint base that was attacked Friday.
The U.S.-run Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, shown in a 2010 file photo, is part of the joint base that was attacked Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 14 of 15 insurgents who attacked a coalition base were killed, ISAF says
  • NEW: They attacked the base heavily armed and wearing U.S. Army uniforms
  • NEW: 6 AV-8B Harrier jets and 6 refueling stations are destroyed, adds ISAF
  • 3 British service members die in separate attacks, also in Helmand province

(CNN) -- A band of insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms waged a deadly assault on U.S.-British military complex in Afghanistan before being beaten back by coalition forces, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Saturday.

Two U.S. Marines and 14 insurgents died in the "sustained" fighting during the Friday-night attack, ISAF said. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the strike was in response to the anti-Islam film stoking anger across the Muslim world.

ISAF said the attack started just after 10 p.m. Friday when about 15 insurgents -- organized into three teams -- waged an assault on the airfield of a complex that includes American-run Camp Leatherneck and the British-run Camp Bastion, where British royal Prince Harry is stationed.

Wearing U.S. army uniforms, the attackers toted automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests. One of their teams was able to breach the perimeter fence, at one point, according to ISAF.

The insurgents inflicted considerable damage around the base, including destroying six AV-8B Harrier jets and damaging two others. Six aircraft hangers suffered damage, while six refueling stations were destroyed.

The violence ended after coalition troops killed all but one of the attackers. The lone survivor was wounded and taken into custody, ISAF said.

Eight coalition military personnel and one civilian contractor were also wounded.

An ISAF statement detailing the attack gave no indication how the insurgents might have obtained U.S. Army uniforms.

Earlier Saturday, ISAF said the camp is secure and the strike would not "impact" air and ground operations. Camp Leatherneck, the U.S. side of the base, was not affected by the attack, Maj. Adam N. Wojack, an ISAF spokesman, told CNN.

White House says Karzai, Obama committed to preventing Afghan riots

The assault occurred amid anger over the film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed. Angry protests tied to the film, a trailer of which was posted online on YouTube in July but only gained widespread attention this month, have occurred in recent days at American and other Western diplomatic missions across the Muslim world.

Still, despite such protests and the Taliban claim tying the attack to the film, ISAF spokesman Maj. Martin Crighton said there had no organized demonstrations outside its gates before the attack.

A week ago Friday, Prince Harry arrived in Afghanistan for a tour as an Apache helicopter pilot in the British military, Defense Ministry said.

He is deployed at Camp Bastion with the 100-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.

Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and third in line to the British throne, is a captain in Britain's Army Air Corps. The prince "was in no way in any danger" during the latest attack, Crighton said.

Violence has been rife in Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan, which is considered the Taliban heartland, since a U.S.-led force first went into the country after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Separately, the British Defense Ministry on Saturday announced the deaths of two members of the 3rd Battalion of that nation's army in Helmand province.

A man wearing an Afghan police uniform fatally shot the two soldiers at a checkpoint in the south of the province's Nahr-e Saraj district, Maj. Laurence Roche, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said in a statement released by the British defense ministry.

This is the latest so-called insider or green-on-blue attack in which members of Afghan security forces are suspected of turning their weapons on coalition or Afghan soldiers.

It was not immediately known where the incident occurred and where the slain service members were from.

Another British soldier died Saturday in a separate incident in Nahr-e Saraj, according to the UK defense ministry. This troop was killed when the vehicle in which he was traveling in struck a bomb.

CNN's Jessica King and Greg Botelho contributed to this report

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