The Afghan defense ministry said Wednesday that at least 26 soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded in a blistering Taliban attack on a military base in the southern province of Kandahar.
The militants “attacked an army camp in Karzali area of Khakrez district of Kandahar last night,” MoD spokesman General Dawlat Waziri said.
Afghan soldiers “bravely resisted”, he added, killing more than 80 insurgents.
Residents in the area described an hours-long attack launched by a 30-strong convoy carrying “hundreds” of Taliban who assaulted the base from multiple directions.
Air support was called in, several residents told AFP, though that was not immediately confirmed by officials. The insurgents claimed the attack via their Twitter account.
Kandahar is considered the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, which have been ramping up their campaign against beleaguered government forces, underscoring rising insecurity in the war-torn country during the summer fighting season when the warmer weather tends to spur an increase in militant attacks.
A recent UN report showed Kandahar, which lies on the border with Pakistan, was one of the most dangerous places in the country for civilians.
More than 70 villagers were kidnapped by the Taliban over the weekend, officials said. Seven were found dead and some 30 returned, while Afghan police have launched a search and rescue operation for the remainder of the missing.
Afghan forces now control 59.7 percent of the country, up from 57.2 percent the previous quarter, according to US watchdog SIGAR.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups meanwhile saw their areas of control or influence increase slightly from about 10 percent to 11.1 percent.
SIGAR has also called the casualty rate among Afghanistan’s National Security Forces “shockingly high.” Last year more than 6,800 were killed and another 12,000 wounded, it said.