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Taliban kill scores in attacks on security forces across north Afghanistan: officials

AFP-JIJI

Taliban fighters killed nearly 60 members of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces in a spate of attacks across the country’s north, officials said Monday, as diplomatic efforts to end the 17-year war intensify.

Heavy fighting overnight in four provinces followed a wave of violence across the war-torn country in recent weeks that has left hundreds of civilians, police and soldiers dead.

After seizing a military base in Sar-e-Pul, Taliban fighters were threatening the provincial capital in a situation that could result in “disaster” if reinforcements were not sent, the area’s police chief, Abdul Qayom Baqizoy, warned.

Baqizoy compared the threat to the Taliban’s extraordinary raid last month on the provincial capital of Ghazni — fighters held large parts of the city located just two hours from Kabul for days.

At least 17 security force members have been killed near Sar-e-Pul city after militants seized a checkpoint in Sayyad district and burned it to the ground, provincial Gov. Zahir Wahdat told journalists Monday.

Air support has been called in, he said. About 39 Taliban fighters have been killed and 14 wounded.

“The fighting is still ongoing near the city and the central government is going to send more reinforcements soon,” Wahdat said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan’s north, the Taliban’s elite Red unit attacked several police posts in Kunduz, killing at least 19 officers and wounding around 20, Dasht-e-Archi district chief Nasruddin Saadi told AFP.

Insurgents also raided two police checkpoints in Dara-e-Suf district of Samangan province, killing 14 officers, northern Afghanistan police spokesman Sarwar Hussaini said.

In Jowzjan province hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the Khomab district center, near Turkmenistan, killing eight security force members and seizing control of government headquarters, provincial deputy police chief Abdul Hafeez Khashi told AFP.

The increased violence comes as Afghan and international players ratchet up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which was toppled from power by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

An unprecedented cease-fire in June followed by talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July fueled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to the fighting.

There is speculation the two sides will meet again this month.

The Taliban have long insisted on direct talks with Washington and refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they see as illegitimate.

The smaller but potent Islamic State (IS) group is not part of the process, with the United States vowing to defeat its fighters in Afghanistan.

On Sunday a suicide bomber blew himself up in Kabul during commemorations for famed resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 20.

The interior ministry would not respond to repeated requests from AFP for details about the latest violence.

Defense ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed had his phone switched off.