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Taliban attacks kill eight despite peace talks

TALIBAN fighters killed at least eight people and injured more than 50 in an attack in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday as the Islamists launched their spring offensive.

Officials from Kunduz said the Taliban had attacked the city from a number of directions in the early hours of Saturday morning, with hundreds fleeing from their homes in fear as explosions and gunfire were heard on the outskirts of the city.

The attack occurred just hours after the Taliban had announced Operation Fath, the name given to this year’s spring offensive, as the resurgent group seeks to exploit an overstretched Afghan army and a deteriorating security situation.

Kunduz regional hospital spokesman Naeem Mangal said at least eight people had been killed and 62 injured in the attack while the Taliban claimed to have killed or wounded “more than 200 soldiers, police and militias.”

Saturday’s killings were the latest in a series of Taliban attacks, with two Afghan soldiers slain in an assault on a district headquarters in the eastern Nangarhar province late on Friday.

A Taliban ambush on a police convoy in Ghor province saw seven security forces killed, including police chief Faqir Ahmad Noori.

Also on Friday in the northen Baghlan province, seven police were killed and eight wounded in Taliban attacks on checkpoints, according to provincial council leader Safder Mohsini.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office condemned “in the strongest words” the announcement of Operation Fath.

“The continuation of war is no-one’s interest,” a statement read.

The resurgent Taliban controls or contests nearly 50 per cent of Afghanistan and launches almost daily attacks on US and Afghan forces.

Threats from the Islamist group disrupted last years Afghan elections, with many people afraid of casting their vote. Taliban fighters visited mosques in villages across the country warning that those who took part in the “sham” elections faced having their homes burnt to the ground. 

The new wave of violence comes despite the Taliban taking part in peace talks on the future of Afghanistan. United Nations travel bans have been lifted to allow 11 Taliban delegates to participate in the negotiations, including the Islamist group’s co-founder Abdul Ghani Barader.

“The requested exemption is solely for travels required for participation in peace and reconciliation discussions,” the UN security council said.

The Taliban refuses to negotiate with the Afghan government which it considers a “puppet” of US imperialism. Talks are scheduled in Doha, Qatar, later this month.

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