At least 30 militants died when landmines they were preparing exploded in a mosque in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province, authorities said on Saturday.
The dead include 24 Taliban insurgents and six foreign militants, the Afghan National Army’s 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement.
The explosion occurred when the insurgents were making landmines during a training session in a mosque in Qiltaan village in the restive Dawlatabad district of the province bordering Uzbekistan, the statement said.
The Taliban, however, refuted the claim, saying in a statement that a landmine exploded inside an empty room and there were no casualties.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesperson, accused Afghan forces of carrying out an air and ground raid on a mosque in the neighboring Sholgara district.
He said the mosque’s prayer leader was killed in the attack.
Mohammad Haneef, an army spokesperson, told Anadolu Agency that an operation was conducted in Sholgara on Friday evening in which five Taliban were killed and six more arrested.
Violence has escalated in Afghanistan over recent days, with multiple bomb blasts in the capital Kabul this week killing a senior police officer and a number of civilians.
In a social media post, Vice President Amrullah Saleh blamed the Taliban for the string of bombings and vowed to exact revenge.
This comes as Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, said this week that the level of violence in Afghanistan remains “too high” and the US is reviewing the peace deal signed with the Taliban last year.
In line with the February 2020 deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May this year, the US has cut down its number of troops in Afghanistan to around 2,500.
The pact, though, seems to be under threat as the Taliban, who had promised to reduce attacks, are blamed by both Washington and Kabul for the increasing violence.