KABUL (Dispatches) – Afghan forces used ground attacks and air strikes in multiple operations against the Taliban during the last 24 hours, killing 51 militants in an escalation that signaled renewed deadlock in talks.
Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that government forces had conducted 13 ground offensives and 12 air strikes in nine provinces, adding that 51 "terrorists” had been killed, 13 wounded and six arrested.
Local officials in the northern province of Balkh said at least three women and four children were killed in the air strikes, prompting protests in front of the provincial governor’s office.
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 militants also captured a large weapons cache, he said.
In a separate statement, the Taliban said its militants had ambushed an Afghan forces patrol in Balkh, killing eight security personnel.
Meanwhile four Taliban militants have been killed after Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted an airstrike in the country’s southern province of Helmand in the latest raid against the Taliban militants and their supply lines, special forces command says.
"The sortie was launched in Washer district, western part of Helmand province on Saturday. One militants’ vehicle and a motorcycle were also destroyed by the strike,” Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps said in a statement.
Helmand province is a known Taliban stronghold.
In another incident, a hand grenade attack on an Afghan wedding ceremony wounded at least 20 people, including several children, a provincial official said Sunday.
At least one of the injured children was in critical condition, said Adel Haider, a spokesman for the police chief of the eastern Khost province, which borders Pakistan.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Saturday night’s attack.