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Nine suicide bombers hit US airfield in Afghanistan, official says

Noorullah Shirzada / AFP - Getty Images

Soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces stand guard at the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad on Sunday.

Updated at 4:35 a.m. ET: Nine suicide bombers struck an American airfield in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad early on Sunday, killing five people and wounding 18, a local official told NBC News.

Two civilians and three members of Afghanistan's special forces were killed in the attack, Hazart Hussain Sharqiwal, spokesman for the Jalalabad police chief, told NBC News. Fourteen Afghan soldiers and four civilians were wounded, he said.

One attacker detonated his car bomb to help other attackers get inside the base, Sharqiwal said. Afghan security officials killed the suicide attackers who had not detonated their devices, he added.

 None of the insurgents breached the perimeter of the base, U.S. Army Maj. Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for NATO in Kabul, told NBC News. He said there were no reports of fatalities among members of the ISAF but some were wounded.

Local police officials earlier told Reuters that a dozen bodies in Afghan police and military uniforms were scattered around an entrance to the base. It was not clear whether the dead were Afghan security forces or militants dressed in uniforms, a tactic the Taliban sometimes deploy during attacks. 

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The Taliban claimed responsibility in an email to reporters. It said a suicide attack occurred first and fighters then tried to enter the base. There was no way to independently verify the claims.

In February, a suicide car bomber killed nine people at the base at an airport, almost exclusively used by NATO and the U.S. military.

The United States and Afghan government are scrambling to improve security before most NATO combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

This article includes reporting from The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News' Akbar Shinwari and Atia Abawi.

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