At least 20 Afghan policemen were killed early on Sunday when Taliban fighters stormed multiple security outposts in the volatile southern province of Zabul.
"This morning, a group of Taliban fighters armed with heavy and light weapons launched coordinated attacks on several police checkpoints in Shah Joy district of Zabul province, killing 20 policemen," provincial governor Bismillah Afghanmal said.
A district official said that at least 15 others were wounded in the fighting.
Local officials made desperate calls to Afghan television stations to seek attention as they were unable to get hold of senior authorities for help, highlighting the disarray in security ranks.
The attack came after a German aid worker and an Afghan guard were killed and a Finnish national was abducted from a house in Kabul late on Saturday.
The three were working for a Swedish aid group called Operation Mercy, spokesman Najib Danish said on Sunday.
Blow to Afghan forces
The coordinated attacks are another stinging blow to NATO-backed Afghan forces. It comes just a month after the Taliban killed scores of security forces in northern Balkh province, in the deadliest insurgent attack on an Afghan military base.
On Friday, Taliban fighters launched a three-pronged attack on parts of the Ghazni province, driving a Humvee packed with explosives into the entrance of a district governor's compound during the assault.
Sunday's raid, the latest in a series of brazen Taliban assaults, underscores Taliban's growing strength more than 15 years since they were ousted from power by the US invasion of 2001.
What a Taliban commander in Khugyani, Nangarhar, told me: "After every drone strike, more and more people want to join us."
— Emran Feroz (@Emran_Feroz) May 21, 2017
Taliban militants launched their annual "spring offensive" in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy and NATO considers sending more troops to break the stalemate against the fighters.
The offensive normally marks the start of the fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle government forces.
The Pentagon has asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity. US presence in Afghanistan numbered more than 100,000 troops six years ago.