At least 57 Afghan security forces were killed and dozens injured in overnight clashes on Sunday with Taliban fighters across Afghanistan in the bloodiest day of fighting since the government and the armed group began peace talks in Qatar about a week ago.
The clashes were in the central province of Uruzgan, where 24 members of the Afghan security forces were killed when Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints, Deputy Governor of the province Sayed Mohammad Sadat said.
Clashes and casualties were also reported in the provinces of Baghlan, Takhar, Helmand, Kapisa, Balkh, Maidan Wardak and Kunduz.
In Balkh, the Taliban took hostage three members of Afghanistan’s spy organisation, according to Monir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for Balkh provincial governor.
The Taliban did not confirm casualties on its side, but according to a spokesman for the Pamir military corps, 54 fighters were killed in clashes in Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan provinces.
A spokesman for the provincial government of Maidan Wardak, Muhibullah Sharifzai, said 26 Taliban fighters were killed in clashes there.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said Taliban attacks had killed 98 civilians and injured 230 others in the last two weeks across 24 provinces.
At least 12 civilians were killed on Saturday in air raids on a Taliban base in the northeastern province of Kunduz.
Defence ministry officials said 40 Taliban fighters were killed, but they did not confirm the number of civilian casualties.
Negotiating teams representing the Taliban and the Afghan government have been meeting in the Qatari capital Doha since talks started on September 12.
The almost daily meetings in Doha made little headway, particularly on a ceasefire.