Afghan policeman stands in position in Kabul. File photo
At least 10 policemen were killed when Taliban fighters attacked an outpost in northern Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday, as fighting raged across the country despite ongoing talks between Washington and the militant group.
The multi-pronged assault took place in Khwaja Alwan district of Baghlan province early Tuesday, said the provincial police spokesman Ahmad Jawed Basharat.
“The Taliban attacked the police checkpoint from several directions. The fighting lasted several hours. Ten policemen were martyred. The Taliban also suffered casualties,” he told the media.
The Taliban also ambushed the police forces sent to reinforce the checkpoint, he added.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi also confirmed the toll to Afghan broadcaster Tolonews.
Dr Muhibullah Muhib — the public health director of Baghlan — gave a slightly lower death toll, saying seven bodies and two wounded policemen were brought to a local hospital after the clash.
The Taliban on Twitter later claimed responsibility for the assault, saying 17 policemen including a commander were killed during the onslaught.
Both the Taliban and Afghan security forces have been known to exaggerate or downplay casualty figures.
Afghan police and security forces have come under frequent attacks in recent weeks, even as the United States and the Taliban have held talks about a possible troop withdrawal agreement.
The Taliban have not launched a major attack on an urban centre in at least two months, spurring hopes the insurgents were purposely pulling back their forces to keep talks with the US on track.
Fighting in the rural provinces, however, appears to have continued unabated with reports of frequent skirmishes appearing daily.
Washington and the Taliban are continuing to wrangle over a possible agreement that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees. But both sides have said little in the last week over the status of the talks.
The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process "dead", citing Taliban violence but it was restarted in December.
Taliban sources told AFP earlier this month they had offered to initiate a ceasefire of seven to 10 days in a bid to restart the formal negotiations, but there was no announcement of the proposal by either party.
The Taliban however claimed the attack was actually a coordinated insurgent assault on the checkpoint where the shooting took place, killing over two dozen militiamen, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
The violence comes even as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week announced his 21-member team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, only to have his political opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, reject it as not inclusive enough.
Sunday evening's attack took place at a military centre where at least 150 members of the Afghan army and intelligence wing were stationed, according to government officials and the Taliban.
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The meeting also discussed the successful efforts exerted by the country to fight COVID-19 pandemic and ways to limit its impact and repercussions in all fields.
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