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Dozens of Afghan soldiers killed in attack on base last week

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Dozens of Afghan soldiers killed in attack on base last week

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KABUL (Reuters) - Dozens of bodies of Afghan soldiers have been found in a military base that Taliban militants stormed last week in the embattled southern province of Uruzgan, officials said on Thursday.

The attack in Chinartu district last Friday underlined the ferocity of fighting in many areas of Afghanistan even as speculation has increased about a possible ceasefire during a religious holiday this month.

"We have discovered and transported 40 bodies from the area, so far," district governor Faiz Mohammad said, adding that a number of members of the security forces were still missing.

News of the attack only began filtering out over the past two days. Muhammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the ministry of defence, said 27 Afghan soldiers were killed and five wounded.

The base was back under control of security forces, said Radmanish but the attack has caused significant damage and weapons losses.

Amir Muhammad Barekzai, a member of the provincial council, said some soldiers appeared to have been shot after they were captured but it was not possible to obtain independent confirmation.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban said 46 members of the Afghan security forces were killed in the Uruzgan clashes.

"Afghan soldiers were not killed in Taliban detention centres," he said.

The attack underlines the heavy losses being suffered by security forces as they fight the Taliban.

A U.S. Congressional watchdog, SIGAR, said in a report last year the losses were "shockingly high" but Afghan authorities no longer release overall casualty data.

The Taliban are fighting the Western-backed government to restore their version of sharia, or Islamic law, after they were driven out by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Mohammad Stanekzai; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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