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Taliban Tunnel Bomb Hits Afghan Army Base

Taliban insurgents have detonated a powerful bomb near a major military base in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, killing at least five soldiers and wounding six others.

The attack happened Tuesday night in the volatile Maiwand district, where Taliban rebels dug a two-kilometer tunnel into the Afghan National Army base and planted the explosives. A security official requesting anonymity confirmed the details to VOA on Wednesday.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, claimed its "tactical explosion flattened" the army base and killed at least 40 security forces, though insurgent claims are often inflated.

Insider attack in Herat

Separately, a local soldier turned his gun Wednesday morning on fellow Afghan and Italian forces at a military base in western Herat province, injuring an Afghan security personnel, the regional corps commander told VOA.

Foreign forces escaped unhurt and Afghan security forces swiftly shot dead the assailant, said Gen. Noorulalh Qadari while giving details of the insider attack.

No one took credit for the shooting in Herat, which borders Iran, but the Taliban routinely claims assailants are insurgents who have infiltrated Afghan forces' to carry out such attacks.

Italy is part of the NATO-led Resolute Support non-combat mission training and advising Afghan forces.

Violence continues in 2019

On Tuesday, Afghan officials confirmed the killing of at least 27 government forces in coordinated Taliban raids in the northern provinces of Sar-e-Pol and Balkh.

The attack in Sayyad district of Sar-e-Pol was the deadliest and it was orchestrated to allow the Taliban to take control of the oil wells in the village of Qashqari, a provincial government spokesman told VOA.

Zabihullah Amani said Afghan security forces repulsed the insurgent offensive but lost 21 personnel in the process while another 23 were wounded.

Taliban fighters also assaulted a security outpost in the Chimtal district of neighboring Balkh, killing six Afghan forces and injuring many more. Officials said the opposition group briefly overran the facility and took away all the weapons as well as related equipment stored there.

Afghan peace efforts

The Taliban appears to be maintaining battlefield pressure on embattled Afghan forces into 2019 to try to strengthen its bargaining position if and when negotiations begin to end the 17-year-old war, say analysts.

The insurgent group stepped up its diplomatic outreach toward the end of 2018 to regional countries and opened direct talks with the United States to discuss ways to end the conflict. Taliban and U.S. negotiators plan to meet again soon but neither side has until now revealed when.

The Taliban has ignored repeated calls from neighboring and regional countries to engage in a political dialogue with the government in Kabul to negotiate an end to decades of hostilities in Afghanistan.