More than 50 Afghans have been killed and injured in an attack by Taliban gunmen on a military compound in the northern province of Balkh, the US military says.
“We’re talking probably more than 50 casualties,” Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, said.
“There is a mosque and a dining facility on the base that seemed to, at this point from our reports, be the subject of significant attack from enemy forces,” he added.
Local media reported that a gun battle and an explosion took place in the vicinity of the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Army forces in Mazar-e-Sharif city, the provincial capital of Balkh, on Friday.
Thomas stressed that he was unaware of any US-led coalition forces who were directly impacted by the ongoing assault.
The spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, Daulat Waziri, earlier said militants stormed the compound with a military vehicle and opened fire at the soldiers praying in a mosque at the base.
The military spokesman added that the Afghan troops killed an assailant wearing an explosive vest before his bomb could detonate.
The Taliban militant group, in a statement, claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants set off a blast, allowing bombers armed with small arms to breach the compound.
Taliban militants have launched their annual spring offensive in the war-torn country, targeting security forces and US-led foreign troops.
The militants were removed from power following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, but they have stepped up activities in recent months, attempting to overrun several provinces.
Thousands of foreign troops are still in Afghanistan, but apparently maintaining security remains an issue amid almost frequent incidents of violence across the country.
Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has also steadily made inroads into the violence-hit country.
The terrorist group, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has recently managed to take recruits from Afghan Taliban defectors. It has also enjoyed defections from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.