Taliban fighters have attacked policemen in northern Afghanistan, government officials said, though they gave different accounts of the severity of the attack.

The armed group ambushed a police convoy during an operation to clear an area in Badakhshan province on Wednesday, Dawlat Mohammad, administrative chief of the district, said on Thursday.

Mohammad said 10 policemen were killed and 16 were captured. But the Interior Ministry in Kabul denied that the Taliban had taken any policemen prisoner.

"We have unfortunately casualties among police but there is no one captured," Sediq Sediqqi, a ministry spokesman, said. He declined to give details of the casualties.

Sediqqi said troops and helicopters had been deployed to the area.

A Taliban spokesman said it had been a "massive" attack on the police but the group's spokesmen often exaggerate.

Violence has increased recently in the Afghan north after years of relative peace, compounding worries about security after foreign troops leave next year.

The violence in previously peaceful parts of the country is also fanning concern about how its 350,000-strong security forces will cope once international forces leave by the end of 2014.

The United Nations has said civilians are bearing the brunt of the 12-year war and this week, its top human rights officer warned that an ominous rise in casualties was a sign that concern for human rights was waning.

Source: Agencies