As many as 18 Afghan soldiers and members of the special forces have been killed in fighting in the western province of Farah, local officials said on Saturday.

Taliban fighters attacked the troops assembled to prepare an attack in Bala Buluk district in the night, setting off a fierce battle, officials said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said four members of the special forces had been killed and a number wounded, but the head of the local provincial council, Farid Bakhtawar, said the death toll had reached at least 18. As the fighting went on, an air strike was called in which killed around 25 militants, he said.

In a message posted on Twitter, a Taliban spokesman claimed 53 commandos had been killed or wounded after arriving in Tapa Sadat, close to the Bala Buluk district centre, and a sizeable quantity of weapons seized.

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