GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN - At least 65 people were killed in a Taliban-claimed attack on an Afghan intelligence base, security sources said Tuesday, raising the toll substantially from the 12 announced previously.
Militants detonated a vehicle packed with explosives at the training facility before gunmen arrived in a car and opened fire.
“We took about 65 bodies out of the rubble yesterday,” Mohammad Sardar Bakhyari, deputy head of the provincial council in Wardak province where the attack Monday came as the latest blow to beleaguered security forces.
Bakhyari’s announcement came after nearly a day of confusion surrounding the toll.
On Monday provincial officials told AFP just 12 people had been killed in the attack. Figures given by officials to other media ranged from 12 dead to more than 100 killed.
One senior security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said at least 70 had been killed.
The attack was on a training facility for the NDS, the Afghan intelligence agency, meaning that any toll will likely be difficult to confirm.
It saw militants ram a Humvee filled with explosives into the National Directorate of Security (NDS) base in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Wardak, which lies about 50 kilometers south of Kabul.
The Taliban — who have been waging a 17-year war against the Western-backed Afghan government — later claimed responsibility for the assault.
Images from the scene show the attack caused the roof to partially collapse.
“Then at least three other attackers in a Toyota car who were following the Humvee entered the compound,” Wardak provincial council member Abdul Wahid Akbarzai said Tuesday.
The attackers were killed quickly, he said, but most of the casualties were caused by the roof collapse.
“It is a big loss,” council head Akhtar Mohammad Tahiri said. “The NDS forces are better trained and equipped than the Afghan police and army soldiers who have been dying in record numbers.”
He added that the militants had been dressed in uniforms used by Afghan special forces.
The attack comes days after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted the convoy of Logar province’s governor, killing at least seven security guards.
Fights between security forces and Taliban fighters have continued to intensify across the country during the freezing Afghan winter, which traditionally experiences a reduction in combat.
The recent skirmishes come as the Taliban announced a resumption of talks with U.S. officials in Qatar as the two sides discuss a possible peace deal that could pave the way for the insurgents’ participation in the next government.
Washington has not confirmed their claim that the talks are continuing.
U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has headed a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent months seeking to bring the Taliban to the table for talks.
But last week the insurgents threatened to suspend the fledgling process.