The Taliban launched a wave of attacks in Afghanistan's eastern province of Ghazni, killing at least 14 police officers, including a district police chief and a reserve unit's commander, Afghan officials said on Tuesday.
Provincial council member Hassan Reza Yusoufi said seven of the officers were killed in the district of Dih Yak, including Faizullah Toofan, the police chief, and reserve commander Haji Baraket. Another seven were killed in Jaghatu district.
The attacks started on Monday night and continued on Tuesday in Dih Yak, Jaghatu, Ajristan and Qarabagh districts, according to Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Noori said at least 12 other members of the security forces were wounded in the attacks in Dih Yak and Jaghatu districts.
Taliban fighters stormed several checkpoints in Dih Yak and Jaghatu, setting off intense battles there, said Latifa Akbari, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement to the media. He claimed the Jaghatu district headquarters was captured as well as several police checkpoints in Dih Yak.
Five killed in Kandahar
At least five people were killed and 33 wounded in a separate attack on Tuesday when a minivan stuffed with explosives detonated as security forces were trying to defuse it in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
Security forces in Kandahar had already cleared the area around a bus station where the van was found, provincial governor spokesman Daud Ahmadi said.
“As the security forces were trying to defuse the van, it detonated,” said police spokesman Mohammad Qasim Azad.
The dead included one civilian, as well as two police and two intelligence officials, authorities at Kandahar's Mirwais Hospital said.
The blast was so powerful that the majority of the wounded were civilian passers-by outside the cleared area.
Ahmadi said security forces also found a large container of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests, and ammunition near the site.
“The terrorists planned to conduct a big attack at end of Ramazan in the city among crowds of people as they went out shopping for Eid... security forces prevented a disaster from happening,” one security official told AFP.
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
The attacks come as the Taliban step up their spring offensive across the war-torn country.
Last week the insurgent group attacked western Farah city, but were repelled by commandos backed by Afghan and US Air Forces.
On Monday, the Taliban warned Kabul residents to avoid “military centres” in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the Afghan capital.
A US government watchdog had warned on Monday that upbeat assessments of improving security in the country did not match facts on the ground.
The Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General said there were “few signs of progress” in the fight against the Taliban.
Top US officials and military commanders insist the Afghan security forces — which have suffered thousands of casualties and are beset with low morale and corruption — are now doing a better job of maintaining order.
But the Taliban still control swathes of the country and are staging repeated attacks, while the Islamic State group has conducted a series of high-profile suicide blasts in Kabul and elsewhere.
Since announcing their offensive last month, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks across the country against Afghan security forces and government officials. In the announcement, they said the offensive is aimed at crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters.