At least 12 people were killed Monday, January 21 in a Taliban-claimed attack on a military compound in central Afghanistan, officials said, as the insurgents continue to batter the war-torn country’s beleaguered security forces.
The attack began after a vehicle loaded with explosives rammed into the entrance of a compound in Maidan Shahr – the capital of Wardak province that lies about 50 km (about 30 miles) south of the capital Kabul.
At least three gunmen stormed the base following the explosion, igniting a firefight with Afghan security forces. All three gunmen were later killed in the exchange, according to a provincial official.
“So far our reports show 12 have been killed and 20 wounded, most of whom were Afghan security forces,” Akhtar Mohammad Taheri, the head of Wardak provincial council, told AFP.
“The Taliban used a Humvee vehicle to hit the compound,” Taheri added.
Provincial health director Mohammad Salim Asgharkhail confirmed the toll.
“Some wounded people were taken to hospitals in Kabul for further treatment as they were in critical condition,” Asgharkhail said.
But media reports put the death toll much higher, with Reuters reporting senior officials as saying over 120 people were killed, including eight special forces members and dozens of local forces trained by the National Directorate of Security.
Provincial governor spokesperson Abdul Rahman Mangal said the huge blast had also partially damaged the base.
The Taliban – who have been waging a 17-year war against the Western-backed Afghan government – later claimed responsibility for the assault.
The attack comes a day after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Logar province’s governor, killing at least seven security guards.
Fights between security forces and Taliban fighters have continued to intensify across the country during the frigid Afghan winter, which traditionally experiences a lull in fighting.
Last week the Taliban claimed responsibility for a vehicle bombing in in Kabul’s Green Village that killed at least four people and wounded more than 100 others.
The militants also vowed to carry out more attacks in the city in direct response to the recent appointment of former spymaster and anti-Taliban veteran Amrullah Saleh as interior minister.
The recent Taliban attacks come as Washington is stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban’s participation in the next government, with the U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visiting regional powers this month after meeting Taliban representatives in December.
Khalilzad ended his visit to neighboring Pakistan Sunday after meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week to discuss ongoing peace efforts.
Last month’s leaking of U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan, however, has threatened to derail the efforts and alarmed many Afghans who fear a return to oppressive Taliban rule.
With reporting from AFP