LASHKAR GAH (Dispatches) – At least 60 militants have been killed, and a dozen others wounded in clashes and airstrikes in Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province, the military said Sunday.
On Saturday, Taliban militants’ shadow district chief of Helmand, Mullah Shafiullah alias Mawlawi Nazim, and his five men were killed and four militants wounded after Afghan Air Force launched airstrikes in surrounding areas of the province, Afghan army’s Miwand 215 Corps said in a statement.
In addition, 54 Taliban militants had been killed and eight others wounded during separate airstrikes and clashes with army in Sorgodar and Bushran, on outskirts of provincial capital Lashkar Gah as well as Naway-i-Barakzai, Garmser and Nad Ali districts from early Friday to Saturday morning, the country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
"Those among the killed militants were a Taliban divisional commander Abdul Salaam and three militants’ bomb experts,” the statement read.
Eight Taliban control and command centers, big amount of weapons, vehicles and several rounds of militants guided rockets were destroyed during airstrikes, according to the statement.
In another development, the Afghan police arrested 10 suspects in connection with drug and firearm trafficking, the country’s Ministry of Interior said Sunday.
"Counter-Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) in coordination with the detective agents arrested 10 suspects for the transportation of weapons and narcotics in Kabul, Herat and Balkh provinces over the past 24 hours,” the ministry said in a statement.
A string of assassinations has sowed fear and chaos across Afghanistan as a fresh round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban begin in Qatar Tuesday.
Months of deliberations between the two sides have yielded little so far, but both parties made something of a breakthrough last year when they finally agreed at least on what to discuss in the next round.
Afghan government negotiators will push for a permanent ceasefire and to protect the existing system of governance, in place since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion.
"The talks are going to be very complicated and time-consuming,” Ghulam Farooq Majroh, a government negotiator told AFP.
"But we are hopeful to arrive at a result as soon as possible as people are tired of this bloody war.”
The Taliban did not offer any comment.
The negotiations follow a landmark troop withdrawal deal signed in February by the Taliban and Washington, which saw the U.S. pledge to pull out all foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.