Kandahar (Afghanistan): At least 20 Afghan policemen were killed early on Sunday when Taliban fighters stormed multiple security outposts in the volatile southern province of Zabul, officials said, as the insurgents escalate their annual spring offensive.
Local officials made desperate calls to journalists to seek attention as they were unable to get hold of senior authorities for help, media reported, highlighting the disarray in security ranks.
"This morning, a group of Taliban fighters armed with heavy and light weapons launched coordinated attacks on several police checkpoints in Shah Joy district of Zabul province, killing 20 policemen," provincial governor Bismillah Afghanmal said.
A district official said that at least 15 others were wounded in the fighting. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on their website.
Taliban militants launched their annual "spring offensive" in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy and NATO considers sending more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants.
The offensive normally marks the start of the fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle government forces. An attack on a military base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif left at least 135 security forces dead last month. The Pentagon has asked the White House to send thousands of more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity -- a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.