At least 40 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in a Taliban attack on a military outpost in a northern province, the latest in a series of deadly assaults on security forces.
Nine policemen and 35 soldiers died in the attack in Afghanistan‘s Baghlan province that began in the early hours of Wednesday, officials said.
Mohammad Safdar Mohseni, head of the provincial council, said the fighters set fire to checkpoints after the attack in Baghlan-i Markazi district.
There was no immediate comment from the Afghan defence ministry. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Monday, the Taliban also overran a military base known as Camp Chinaya in northern Faryab province, killing 17 soldiers and wounding 19 others.
The assault in Baghlan came as fighting between the Taliban and security forces raged in several areas of the war-torn country.
Battles in Ghazni had eased, however, after the Taliban attacked the strategic city on Friday.
The Taliban said it ordered fighters out of Ghazni after five days of street battles that killed and wounded hundreds and left it a burned-out wreck.
The city hospital was overcrowded with hundreds of wounded people and dozens of bodies and people desperately searching for relatives among the dead and wounded.
As civilians emerged onto Ghazni’s streets, residents told AFP news agency how they hid in basements during the campaign.
“My house was just near the front line, the Taliban would force people to bring them food and tea,” said Hassan Safari.
“The fighting was intense. For two days, we had no water and no food. My children would cry when they heard booms and sounds of firing by Taliban from behind our wall.”
Ghazni lies along the major Kabul-Kandahar highway, effectively serving as a gateway between Kabul and the Taliban’s strongholds in the south.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent fresh water and electricity generators for trauma surgeries and delivered material for the management of remains.
About 20 percent of the population in Ghazni depend on the city water system, which has been down since the beginning of the fighting. The ICRC is organising emergency water supplies by truck to cover the needs of about 18,000 people.
Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said Wednesday that “life is getting back to normal”. But the United Nations warned of “extreme human suffering” caused by the latest fighting.
“Reports indicate that the casualty toll in Ghazni is immense,” the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said Wednesday.
“Unconfirmed estimates range from 110 to 150 civilian casualties. Reliable information indicates that the Ghazni public hospital is overwhelmed by a continuous influx of injured government forces, Taliban fighters and civilians.”
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in the southern Zabul province early Wednesday, killing four police, according to the provincial police chief, Mustafa Mayar, who said another three officers were wounded.
He said seven attackers were killed and five were wounded during the battle, in which the Taliban used artillery and heavy weapons.
The Taliban have seized several districts across the country in recent years and carry out near-daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces.
The assault on Ghazni was widely seen as a show of force ahead of possible peace talks with the United States, which has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 17 years.