Dozens of Taliban killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan

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Dozens of Taliban fighters were killed in heavy fighting last night between Afghan forces and insurgents who stormed checkpoints in southern Kandahar province, the group’s stronghold, said officials. responsible Sunday.

“The security forces repelled the assault, killing 51 terrorists and injuring nine others,” the Afghan defense ministry said in a statement.

The Taliban carried out near-simultaneous attacks overnight from Saturday to Sunday against checkpoints in five districts around the city of Kandahar – capital of the province of the same name – after which Afghan forces responded via air and land, the ministry said.

Seven family members were also killed in an airstrike by Afghan forces in Arghandab district, a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The Afghan Air Force wanted to target a car full of explosives … but when they hit the car and it exploded, it caused the deaths of civilians,” the source added, adding that the targeted car was parked near a house.

The Defense Ministry said it was investigating the incident.

Across the province, the fighting, gunfire and airstrikes lasted several hours, according to an AFP journalist on the spot.

The Taliban, contacted by AFP, did not wish to react to this information.

The province of Kandahar is the cradle of the Taliban movement, and the city of Kandahar was the capital of their regime in the 1990s. While the city is now under government control, many surrounding districts are controlled or contested by insurgents .

In recent weeks, the Taliban have launched a large-scale offensive in districts neighboring the city of Kandahar, such as Zherai, Dand, Panjwai, or even Arghandab.

In October, insurgents launched a similar offensive in neighboring Helmand province, which forced tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes.

This assault, which had targeted in particular Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand, had prompted the United States to carry out air strikes to defend the Afghan forces.

The insurgents have pledged to no longer target major urban centers and US forces since the signing of the US-Taliban accord in February.

But they only increased their daily attacks against Afghan forces across the country, especially in rural areas, despite ongoing talks between the two camps.

These peace negotiations, launched in September in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government, have been suspended and will resume on January 5, the two sides said on Saturday.

Representatives of the insurgents and Kabul tweeted that they exchanged “preliminary lists of points [à mettre] on the agenda of the inter-Afghan negotiations and to have had introductory discussions on these subjects ”.

In recent months, Kabul has also been the scene of several bloody attacks, often claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, including rocket fire on Saturday that killed a civilian.

A bomb attached to a vehicle also killed two civilians in the Afghan capital on Sunday, police said.

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