ISLAMABAD - Officials in Afghanistan’s troubled northern Kunduz province say an overnight insurgent attack has left at least six national security force personnel dead.
Provincial police chief General Abdul Hamid Hamid told media Sunday a large group of insurgents stormed a security outpost near the provincial capital, also called Kunduz, causing the fatalities.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed its fighters also overran the outpost and seized weapons and other equipment there.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Interior Ministry said airstrikes in the province’s Imam Sahib district late Saturday killed at least 18 Taliban insurgents, including three key commanders.
The dead militants “were involved in planning and implementing several terrorist attacks in Kunduz province," according to a statement issued in Kabul.
The insurgents have stepped up attacks on government forces around the country as springtime is arriving in Afghanistan amid fears of more violence this year.
Chief Afghan presidential advisor Homayun Qayoumi has acknowledged unprecedented losses insurgents inflicted last year in Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF.
“It (the Taliban) looks more of an organized army fighting Afghanistan…, and actually that is why the level of casualties in 2016 ended up to be much higher than the prior decade,” the advisor said at a public talk in Washington last Friday while highlighting challenges facing the Afghan government.
ANDSF lost nearly 7,000 personnel while battling the Taliban last year.
The insurgent group controls or influences several districts in Kunduz and in neighboring northern provinces that border Central Asian states.
Last month, an American airstrike killed the Taliban’s commander for Kunduz, Mullah Abdul Salam, dealing a major blow to the insurgency.
Under Salam’s leadership, the Taliban briefly capturedKunduz in late 2015 in an embarrassing setback to the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces.
In another development, officials in northern Faryab province have confirmed Taliban insurgents assassinated a district police chief late Saturday.
A provincial police spokesman said a bomb attached to the slain police officer’s vehicle also seriously wounded another security officer.