58 killed in fresh clashes between Taliban, Afghan forces

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 05.02.2019 14:57 Modified 05.02.2019 14:57

At least 36 members of the Afghan security forces and 22 Taliban fighters have been killed in fresh clashes in the country's north, officials and local media confirmed Tuesday.

The renewed fighting coincides with a two-day round of peace talks now underway in Moscow between Taliban representatives and several Afghan officials, who are not affiliated with the Kabul government.

Safiullah Amiri, deputy chairman of the provincial assembly of Kunduz province on the border with Tajikistan, told Anadolu Agency that the militants had overrun a number of checkpoints manned by army, police and pro-government militiamen late Monday.

Amiri confirmed that 36 security personnel had been killed -- and at least 20 more injured -- in the attacks.

The Afghan Defense Ministry, for its part, said the Taliban assault in Kunduz had been repulsed.

"The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces repelled the enemy attack in the Khwaja Pak and Taloka areas on the outskirts of Kunduz city last night at around 1 a.m. (local time)," read a ministry statement.

At least 22 Taliban militants were killed and another 18 injured, the ministry added, going on to note that a number of security personnel had been "martyred" in the fighting.

Similar Taliban attacks reportedly occurred in Afghanistan's northern Baghlan province, where, according to local Azadi Radio, as many as 10 security personnel were killed in coordinated assaults by the Taliban.

Claiming credit for both onslaughts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in a statement that four checkpoints had been completely overrun.

Mujahed added that at least 40 Afghan forces had been killed in Kunduz and Baghlan.

The talks in Moscow, which have been condemned by Kabul, come 10 days after peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar ended with signs of progress towards the withdrawal of thousands of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to more than 17 years of war.

Moscow had decided to snub Afghan government officials, sources said, to ensure the participation of the Taliban who refuse to hold talks with representatives of Western-backed President Ashraf Ghani, branding them puppets of the United States. The talks include opposition lawmakers, including former President Hamid Karzai.

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