KABUL: More than 20 people, including civilians and police, died in separate attacks in Afghanistan, officials said on Saturday, days ahead of the first round of crucial intra-Afghan talks on June 15 aimed at finding ways to end a protracted war in the country.
In one of the attacks, a group of Taliban insurgents stormed a police post overnight and killed 10 officers in an area of the central Ghor province, Atta Mohammad Dehqanpur, a lawmaker from the province told Arab News.
“The Taliban were armed with small and heavy weapons and opened fire as some of the police were asleep,” Dehqanpur said.
Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul, Tariq Aryan, confirmed the reports but told Arab News that there was no specific number of casualties.
“We have had contradictory figures on deaths. The Taliban had attacked the police post, and both sides have suffered casualties,” he said.
In the second attack, a commander for one of the factions, Abdul Wali Ekhlas, and seven of his friends were gunned down in an ambush in the southeastern Khost province, a spokesman for Khost’s police, Adel Haidar, told reporters in a message.
The motive behind the overnight attack against Ekhlas was not immediately clear, Aryan said.
In the third incident, which also took place last night, a woman and three members of her family were killed by unknown gunmen at their home in Logar province, which lies to the south of Kabul.
The Taliban, whose delegates are set to initiate peace talks with politicians, including members of President Ashraf Ghani’s government in the coming days, has not commented on the attacks. However, officials have not blamed the Taliban for the Khost and Logar violence.
Earlier on Saturday, a spokesman for Ghani’s national security adviser, Javid Faisal, accused the Taliban of killing 89 civilians and wounding 150 others in the past two weeks alone.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, described Faisal’s comments as “propaganda of the enemy” and instead blamed Kabul for killing civilians in its attack.
Despite efforts from both sides to initiate talks in the coming days, Taliban fighters and government forces have conducted attacks against each other in recent months, and affiliates of Daesh have also unleashed a series of attacks.
Daesh accepted responsibility for a bomb explosion, which occurred on Friday inside a mosque in the capital, Kabul, killing at least four worshippers, including the prayer leader.
It followed the killing of another prominent cleric in another mosque in Kabul some 10 days ago, in an attack also claimed by Daesh.
Unlike the past attacks perpetrated by Daesh, which mostly targeted Shiite mosques, both the clerics were Sunnis.
Observers believe that even if the Taliban and Kabul reach a settlement, peace will not be completely restored in Afghanistan and Daesh’s followers may continue their attacks.
“The overnight attacks may not have much impact on the talks and we do not know if all of them were conducted by the Taliban,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst, told Arab News.
“Both sides seem ready to initiate the talks and even if they succeed that may not be the end of the war in Afghanistan as Daesh is still active here,” he said.
The Taliban and the US inked a historical deal in Qatar at the end of February this year which pushes for a total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by next spring, with the Taliban pledging to cut ties with Al- Qaeda and other militants and not allow them to use their territory against any country, including US interests.
The government and the Taliban have exchanged prisoners in recent weeks, a condition set by the Taliban ahead of starting talks with Kabul.
Afghan officials in recent days have said that the first round of talks with the Taliban might happen online because of the coronavirus outbreak, or that they will possibly meet face-to-face in Qatar.