KABUL — A suicide blast tore through a crowded market Wednesday in northwest Afghanistan, killing more than a dozen people in an area where government forces have clashed recently with Taliban militants.

KABUL — A suicide blast tore through a crowded market Wednesday in northwest Afghanistan, killing more than a dozen people in an area where government forces have clashed recently with Taliban militants.


There was no assertion of responsibility, but the Taliban and other extremist groups have carried out similar attacks in the past.


The bomber detonated an explosive belt after being spotted by a security guard in the main market in the Almar district of Faryab province, about 250 miles northwest of Kabul, officials said.


The area has been relatively stable, but clashes have flared in recent weeks between government troops and Taliban insurgents in Faryab and several other northern provinces.


Almar’s district chief, Mohammad Saleh Saleh, said at least 20 people were killed in the attack on Wednesday.


"Bodies and wounded people were scattered in various directions. Some people took the bodies of their loved ones. Some were there when we arrived," Saleh said. "So our estimate, for now, is that 20 have been killed and 30 wounded. The toll could be higher."


A local official, cited by the Associated Press, said that at least 15 people were killed and 38 injured — some seriously — also suggesting that the fatality count could rise.


Speaking earlier by telephone from the area, Faryab’s deputy governor, Abdul Satar Barez, said at least 25 people were killed, including two members of security forces.


The reason for the conflicting casualty tolls was not clear, but such discrepancies are common in the immediate aftermath of militant attacks.


The violence across the country coincides with the transfer of all security operations to poorly equipped Afghan forces from U.S.-led international troops. It also points to divisions among Afghan leaders.


First Vice President Abdurrashid Dostum, a former warlord, has formed an alliance with two regional strongmen — which works outside the government’s regular security establishment — to fight the Taliban advances in the north.


Dostum and his allies played a major role in the fall of the pro-Moscow government in the 1990s, which led to civil war and the later rise of the Taliban.


Dostum insists that he is not forming a militia and remains loyal to Western-backed President Ashraf Ghani.