Taliban kill 12 Afghan security forces in western Afghanistan

KABUL: Taliban fighters have killed 12 security forces in the last 48 hours in ongoing fighting in Afghanistan’s western province of Badghis, the defence ministry said Monday.

In the latest assault on Afghan forces — who have faced devastating losses in recent years — Taliban fighters last week smashed through government lines near the city of Bala Murghab, seizing several checkpoints.

“It is with great sadness we announce that during these operations, eight Afghan National Army and four police who fought with bravery and courage accepted martyrdom,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Another 10 soldiers and 24 police were wounded in the operation that killed “99 Taliban terrorists,” it added.

Clearance operations continue in the district, officials said, and security forces helped Red Cross workers evacuate the bodies of Taliban fighters that had been left on battlefields.

Jamshid Shahabi, the spokesperson for the Badghis governor, told AFPthat fighting continued near the district’s main marketplace.
Afghan and US-led aircraft were striking Taliban positions, he said.

“They have suffered heavy casualties.”

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The defence ministry last week said Afghan forces had made a “tactical retreat” from a number of checkpoints in the district to “avoid civilian casualties”.

Abdul Aziz Beg, the head of the Badghis provincial council, had described the situation as “critical” and called for reinforcements.

The Taliban said they had conducted a coordinated attack on a series of government checkpoints, killing 12 security forces.

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The militants launched their assault ahead of a widely expected spring offensive.

They typically declare a new fighting season as winter snows melt, and have in the past sought to gain control of district centres and target government facilities.

The clash started as Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy tasked with forging a peace deal with the Taliban, was in Afghanistan, where he spoke with national leaders and stakeholders.

Khalilzad is expected in the coming days to go to Qatar, where Taliban and Afghan officials are due to meet.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the talks were set to begin on April 14.

In January, President Ashraf Ghani said 45,000 security forces had been killed since he took office in September 2014.

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