KABUL — Afghanistan on Monday mourned the loss of 21 soldiers killed by the Taliban in the single deadliest attack against the Afghan army in at least a year, as new details about the assault emerged that threatened to further strain relations with neighboring Pakistan.
There was an outpouring of public grief across the country as officials held a memorial service at the military hospital.
“The uniforms your brothers and sons wore were actually their burial shrouds,” Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi told family members who gathered there. “We will follow their path and defend their blood.”
People began raising money for the families to supplement the roughly $1,800 in death benefits the families will receive from the government.
The soldiers died Sunday when hundreds of heavily armed Taliban insurgents attacked two remote army checkpoints near each other in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Officials said five Afghan soldiers are missing.
At the ceremony in Kabul, which was attended by Ministry of Defense officials and families of the slain soldiers, an honor guard stood at attention behind the long line of coffins draped in the Afghan flag and topped with bouquets of flowers.
Mohammadi stressed that the Afghan army’s capacity has increased. ‘‘We will stand against those who . . . come to Afghanistan to kill our people,’’ he said.
Mohammadi appeared to be making a veiled reference to Pakistan. Initial reports did not say whether the Kunar attackers came across the border from Pakistan but Afghan officials implied that they had.