KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban insurgents attacked an army outpost in Afghanistan’s southwestern Farah province killing at least seven soldiers, local officials said on Monday, as the country braces for violence after May 1, a previously agreed deadline for foreign troop withdrawal.
In a video message to media, Farah Governor Taj Mohammad Jahid said the Taliban had blown up an army outpost after digging a 400-metre (0.25 miles) tunnel to access it from a nearby house. He added that one soldier had also been captured by the insurgents.
Two local officials, one speaking on condition of anonymity, said dozens of military including elite commando forces had been killed. Provincial council member Khayer Mohammad Noorzai said that around 30 had died in the attack and that the base was in the hands of the Taliban.
A Taliban spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Officials said a blast in the province’s capital on Monday had wounded 21 people, including five children. Farah Public Health Director Abdul Jabar Shayeq said three of the injured were in hospital in critical condition.
Afghanistan’s capital was placed on high alert over the weekend and security in urban centres ramped up while the head of foreign forces in Afghanistan warned insurgents against attacking foreign troops as they withdraw from the country over the coming months.
Under a February 2020 deal between former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban, foreign forces were to withdraw from the country by May 1 while the hardline Islamist group held off on attacking foreign troops and bases.
But U.S. President Joe Biden announced last month after reviewing the situation that U.S. forces would instead complete their withdrawal by Sept. 11, more than four months later than the previous plan.
Violence against Afghans has escalated in recent weeks, with more than a hundred Afghan security forces personnel killed. On Friday, a huge blast in eastern Logar killed dozens as they broke their fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.
(Reporting by Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; Additional reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat, Zainullah Stanekzai in Lashkar Gar and Orooj Hakimi in Kabul; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Hugh Lawson)