• Afghan security officials stand guard near the site where several militants in Afghan army uniform targeted an army base. (EPA)
Taliban gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms launch an attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan.
Source:
AFP
22 Apr - 6:17 AM  UPDATED 22 Apr - 9:03 PM

More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed and wounded in a coordinated Taliban attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan, the country's defence ministry said Saturday.

Two of the attackers blew themselves up and seven were killed in the assault near Mazar-i-Sharif city on Friday which lasted several hours and targeted soldiers at a mosque and dining facility.  

"The majority of our soldiers were offering Friday prayers" at the time of the assault, the ministry said in a statement, adding that "over 100 Afghan army forces were martyred and wounded".

The government toll of the attack came as a military official who was at the base at the time of the assault told AFP that "150 soldiers were killed and dozens wounded".

Watch: Dozens of Afghan soldiers killed in attack

"They were young recruits who had come for training," he said on condition of anonymity.

A US military spokesman said earlier that "more than 50" Afghan soldiers were killed in the attack claimed by the Taliban, while Afghan officials had initially put the death toll at eight with 11 wounded. 

The latest deadly assault against an Afghan military site underscores rising insecurity in the war-torn country as it braces for an intense fighting season in the spring.

The facility in Balkh province is home to the Afghan army's 209th Corps. 

The last major attack against a military site was in early March when gunmen disguised as doctors stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital - the country's largest military hospital - in Kabul, killing dozens.

Taliban spring offensive

The Taliban are preparing to launch their traditional spring offensive, although the lull in the fighting season was only partial this year.

The last major attack against a military site was in early March, a coordinated hours-long assault on the country's main military hospital in Kabul.

Officials said around 50 people were killed in that attack, though credible sources said it was more than double that.

That operation was claimed by the Islamic State group.

US-led NATO troops have been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks in the United States. 

Efforts to negotiate a lasting peace settlement between Kabul and the Taliban have repeatedly fallen through.

More than a third of the country is beyond the control of the Afghan government and many regions are fiercely contested by various groups.

Earlier this month the US military dropped its GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, dubbed the "Mother of All Bombs", in combat for the first time, killing 96 jihadists in IS hideouts in eastern Afghanistan.

The area has not been reopened to civilians since the bombing.

The attack triggered global shockwaves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.

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