More than 100 security forces members have been killed in a Taliban assault on a military base in eastern Afghanistan, authorities said.
Attackers rammed a captured military Humvee packed with explosives into a training center of the National Directorate for Security in Maidan Wardak province, west of the capital Kabul. At least two gunmen followed up, spraying the compound with gunfire before they were shot down. Maidan Shahr is about 44km southwest of Kabul, along the Ghazni-Kabul highway.
An official in the defence ministry, speaking anonymously, told Reuters the death toll was as high as 126.
“We have information that 126 people have been killed in the explosion inside the military training center,” the official said.
The government had previously claimed only 12 soldiers were killed in the attack.
Local officials told the BBC that at least 30 people had been wounded.
All the gunman who stormed the base after the suicide car bomb died during the firefight, a provincial official said earlier.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack shortly afterwards. The assault came just one day after a suicide bomber from the Islamist insurgent group targeted the convoy of the governor of Logar province.
Seven of the governor’s bodyguards were killed in the blast, but the governor escaped unharmed.
The three-figure death toll would make this the single deadliest attack by the Taliban on government security forces in the 17 years of their long-running insurgency.
“The government was hiding the accurate casualty figures to prevent a further dip in morale of the Afghan forces,” he claimed.
“Several bodies were transported to Kabul city and many injured were transferred to hospitals in Kabul. The explosion was very powerful. The whole building has collapsed.”
An interior ministry official in Kabul admitted there had been an effort to cover up the extent of the casualties.
“I have been told not to make the death toll figures public. It is frustrating to hide the facts,” he said.
Last year, Mr Ghani said 28,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers had been killed in just the last three years.