Clashes across Afghanistan kill dozens of security force members, militants


Kabul (Reuters) – Clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants killed dozens nationwide over the past 24 hours, authorities said on Wednesday, even as the United States tries to broker peace talks between the warring sides.

Eight security force members were killed in a Taliban attack on a checkpoint at the Mes Aynak Copper Mine in eastern Logar province on Tuesday evening, Abdul Qadeer Mutfi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Mine and Petroleum Ministry, said in a tweet.

The insurgent group also attacked several checkpoints in northern Sar-e-Pul province, provincial governor spokesman Zabihullah Amani said, killing 11 Afghan security force members, wounding 19 and resulting in one being captured by the Taliban.

Attacks are threatening to derail a fragile peace process, with the Taliban rejecting the Afghan government’s repeated calls for a ceasefire as the country also attempts to deal with a growing coronavirus outbreak and prisoner exchanges to take place with an eye to formal peace talks.

After a week-long reduction in violence leading up to the signing of a troop withdrawal agreement with the United States in February, the Taliban resumed attacks on Afghan forces, though it has held back on attacking foreign forces.

The United States and other foreign powers have called for the militant group to reduce its attacks, with the commander of U.S. forces this month meeting the Taliban leadership in Qatar over the issue.

The White House said U.S. President Donald Trump and Qatari leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani agreed in a phone call on Wednesday on the importance of the Taliban reducing violence in Afghanistan.

The two leaders also agreed on the importance of continuing discussions on prisoner releases in Afghanistan, the White House added in a statement.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior said in a tweet that a clearance operation in Logar had resulted in 20 Taliban fighters being killed.

In southern Kandahar province, clashes in three districts killed four Afghan security force members and 31 Taliban fighters, according to a provincial police statement.

A roadside blast also killed at least four civilians in central Ghazni province late Tuesday night, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, accusing the Taliban of planting a bomb.

A Taliban spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The group has not made any public claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks.

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