KABUL: At least 14 people have been killed and dozens injured in a Taliban mortar attack on a busy market in northern Afghanistan,
Hanif Rezaee, an Afghan army spokesman, said that Taliban shells struck the market, situated in the Khwaja Sabz Posh district of Faryab Province.
The Taliban, he added, had been trying to hit an army checkpoint near the market.
“Fourteen civilians were killed and 40 — including women and children — were wounded,” Rezaee said.
Meanwhile, Naem Musamim, Faryab’s public health director, said that the injured had been taken to local hospitals.
Abdul Karim Yuresh, Faryab provincial police chief spokesman, stressed that the likely target of Friday’s attack was a nearby security post.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, however, claimed that the mortars were fired by the government during a gunfight.
Hours after the Friday announcement, a large number of Taliban militants stormed the Shirzad district center in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar and put heavy pressure on government forces.
“The enemy still seeks to attain its malicious objectives through the use of force,” the Taliban said in an apparent reference to Afghan government troops.
It also called on Afghan soldiers, police and other pro-government forces to join them at the onset of the spring offensive as “our Jihadi obligation has not yet ended.”
Qais Mangal, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, denounced the Taliban threat as mere propaganda. “The Taliban will not reach their vicious goals and their operations will be defeated like previous years,” he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced his government’s own spring offensive, dubbed Operation Khalid, against the militant group last month.
Clashes have intensified in Afghanistan’s northern, northeastern and southern parts and the situation is expected to escalate as the weather gets warmer.