Attacks in Afghanistan kill dozens of civilians, security force members

Clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants killed dozens nationwide in the past 24 hours, officials said on Wednesday, even as the United States tries to broker peace talks between the warring sides.

Abdul Qadeer Mutfi, spokesman for the Mine and Petroleum Ministry, said in a tweet that eight Afghan 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.

The insurgent group had also attacked several checkpoints in the northern province of Sar-e-Pul, 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 the growing outbreak of coronavirus and prisoner exchanges 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 militant group resumed attacks on Afghan forces, though has held back on attacking foreign forces.

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

The 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.

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