Airstrikes and ground attacks kill 51 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

At least three women and four children died during the airstrikes, prompting protests in Balkh

The military forces in Afghanistan conducted multiple airstrikes and ground attacks against the Taliban in the past 24 hours. Around 51 fighters were killed and has signalled the renewed deadlock on any peace talks.

On Sunday the Defense Ministry said that the forces have conducted 13 ground offensives and 12 airstrikes in nine provinces. They confirmed the death of 51 terrorists. They also said that 13 were wounded and six were arrested during the attack. The officials from the province of Balkh said that three women and four children were dead due to the airstrikes. This has led to protests in the region's governor's office.

A fact-finding mission in Balkh

Afghanistan Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen storm police training center
Representational Image

The government pledged to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the reports of civilian deaths. Meanwhile, the Taliban said it had staged two more attacks targeting security forces over the weekend, following sporadic assaults last week. Afghan security forces' checkpoints in Kunduz were attacked on Saturday night, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement, adding that 10 members of the security forces were killed and three wounded. Taliban fighters also captured a large weapons cache, he said.

In a separate statement, the Taliban said its fighters had ambushed an Afghan forces patrol in Balkh, killing eight security personnel. The spike in hostilities comes as US and Taliban negotiators in Doha take a two-day break for consultations about how to overcome recent hurdles in the talks, a source close to the process told Reuters.

Negotiations between the two sides began last year in Doha but have been interrupted at least twice after Taliban attacks on US military personnel in September and December. Last week, another round of talks kicked off with US Special Representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad meeting repeatedly with the Taliban's chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Multiple sources close to the talks said the Taliban had agreed internally to halt attacks against US forces and "reduce" assaults against Afghan government interests. Over the last week, however, reports of attacks by Taliban fighters on government installations, including police stations continued to filter in from different parts of Afghanistan.

(With agency inputs)