KABUL — Taliban forces nearly wiped out an entire Afghan army post late Wednesday, killing 43 soldiers as they stormed a base with suicide bombers in the strife-torn southern province of Kandahar. The group also launched two attacks elsewhere that killed 15 people.
In total, 58 security officers died in the bloody string of attacks on military facilities, following suicide bomb attacks this week that killed 74 people in three provinces.
The attack in Kandahar's Maiwand district took place Wednesday night when two Humvees packed with explosives were driven into an Afghan National Army base where 60 soldiers were stationed.
Taliban fighters then assaulted the facility, setting off several hours of fighting that killed nearly every Afghan soldier there and wounded nine. The battle ended with a U.S. airstrike that killed nine Taliban fighters, NATO officials said.
Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said just two soldiers remained unharmed on the base, while six were missing.
Meanwhile, Taliban fighters killed nine police officers late Wednesday in the western province of Farah during attacks on police posts there and killed six policemen in an ambush
in the northern province of Balkh.
Taliban attacks on Afghan military and police compounds have increased this week after U.S. officials met in Oman with delegations from Afghanistan, Pakistan and China to discuss the possibility of restarting peace negotiations with the insurgent group.
While the most recent attacks were not as deadly as an April assault on a military facility in Balkh that killed at least 140 soldiers and officers, or the May bombing in Kabul that killed 91 people, this week's attacks mark a sharp upturn in the number of casualties.
Afghan officials recently thwarted plans for attacks in Kabul that would have targeted military facilities, convoys and crowded areas, arresting three people in vehicles carrying explosives.
Taliban fighters have been turning increasingly to Humvees, the hulking U.S.-made vehicles favored by government forces, as a tool for suicide bombs, officials said.
The bulky off-road vehicles, taken from Afghan army bases in previous attacks, create more shrapnel when they explode and make it harder for Afghan guards to tell whether an approaching suicide bomber is with the Taliban, government security officials said.
Sayed Salahuddin and Sharif Walid contributed to this report.