KABUL: At least two dozen Afghan security forces were killed Friday in an insider attack on their base in southern Afghanistan, two officials told AFP.

Several “infiltrators” opened fire on their comrades as they slept, Zabul governor Rahmatullah Yarmal said, in one of the deadliest attacks since the US signed a withdrawal deal with the Taliban last month.

The pre-dawn raid targeted a joint police and army headquarters near Qalat, the provincial capital, long considered a Taliban stronghold.

“In the attack, 14 Afghan army forces and 10 policemen were killed,” Zabul provincial council chief Ata Jan Haq Bayan said. He added that four other Afghan security forces were missing. “The attackers had connections with the Taliban insurgents,” Bayan said.

They fled in two military Humvee vehicles, along with a pickup truck, weapons and ammunition.

Yarmal confirmed the toll to AFP.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident comes a day after Afghan Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid called on the Taliban to commit to a ceasefire as a way of tackling the novel coronavirus, which observers fear is spreading unchecked through the impoverished country.

Khalid also said Afghan forces should assume a more aggressive “active defence” posture against the Taliban, who have continued attacks across the country since signing a deal with the US on February 29.

Zabul province borders Pakistan and former Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, who died in 2013, hid there for years.

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