Over two dozen Afghan security forces were killed on Friday in an insider attack on their base in southern Afghanistan, officials told AFP, as fighting raged in the war-weary country while efforts to start talks with the Taliban stalled, AFP reports from Kabul.

The pre-dawn attack in Zabul province comes as Afghanistan is grappling with several crises including an increase in Taliban violence that has thrown a supposed peace process into turmoil, mounting coronavirus cases, and a political feud that has seen two men claim the presidency. The attack in Zabul saw several “infiltrators” open fire on their comrades as they slept, according to provincial governor Rahmatullah Yarmal, 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. “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 service members were missing.