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Taliban Assault on Afghan Military Base Kills 16 Soldiers

Afghan policemen transport the body of a police after gunmen attack in Jalalabad city eastern Afghanistan, May 17, 2017.

The Taliban has attacked security outposts around a military base in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 16 government soldiers and wounding many others, officials said Friday.

The overnight attack in the Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province triggered intense clashes, killing at least 27 insurgents, police spokesman Zia Durani told VOA.

He also confirmed that at least four Afghan soldiers were taken hostage by the Taliban and retreating insurgents did not retrieve bodies of their fighters from the battlefield.

A spokesman for the Islamist insurgency took responsibility for the raid, claiming the fighting left 35 soldiers dead while another eight were captured. It was not possible to independently verify the insurgent toll.

Both sides are known for releasing inflated figures.

Thursday’s raid was the second on the military base this week. A nighttime Taliban attack Monday killed 20 security forces and wounded 15 more.

Late on Wednesday, insurgents staged a surprise assault on an army base in the province’s Maiwand district and killed 13 soldiers.

The insurgents have repeatedly targeted major Afghan army bases during this year’s fighting, inflicting heavy casualties on government forces. Their campaign started with last month’s attack on the main regional military base located outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The deadliest-ever Taliban raid killed more than 150 soldiers, although multiple independent sources gave a much higher death toll.

Increased casualties have fueled concerns about the capacity of Afghan forces. Corruption, desertion and “ghost soldiers” - those who exist on the payroll but whose salaries are usurped by corrupt commanders - are cited as the primary causes for battlefield setbacks.

Around 300 soldiers have been killed since March in militant attacks on Afghan military installations, including a deadly gun-and-bomb raid on the largest military hospital in Kabul, claimed by Islamic State loyalists. The attack killed 50 people.