Dozens killed in fighting as Afghan peace talks continue

Afghan women demonstrating at a rally to demand peace, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sept 16, 2020.
Afghan women demonstrating at a rally to demand peace, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Sept 16, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN (AFP) - Fierce fighting between Afghan forces and the Taleban left dozens dead in a restive eastern province, officials said on Thursday (Sept 17), as negotiators from both sides pushed ahead with peace talks in Qatar.

Overnight clashes erupted in three districts of Nangarhar province when Taleban fighters attacked several checkpoints of Afghan forces and pro-government militiamen, Mr Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, told AFP.

He said at least 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in fighting in Hesarak, while eight pro-government militiamen were killed in Khogyani.

Mr Khogyani said about 30 Taleban fighters died in the clashes - including some foreigners.

The hardline insurgent group has not commented on the fighting so far.

The latest fighting comes as the Afghan government and Taleban are engaged in talks in Doha aimed at ending the long-running conflict.

Afghanistan's acting Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid blamed the Taleban for the fighting.

"There have been no attacks from our side... The enemies continue to attack and spill the blood of Afghans," he said at a ceremony where US forces handed over four A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to the Afghan military.

Peace talks commenced on Saturday after months of delay over a contentious prisoner swap between the two sides.

The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taleban and Washington signed in February, which also paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May next year.