US air strike, 20 Afghan troops killed

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Taliban fighters have stepped up pressure on Afghan forces in the western province of Badghis, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 20, an official said on Tuesday, as the militants make advances even as they hold peace talks with US officials.

A large number of Taliban insurgents launched attacks on several army posts in the province’s Bala Murghab district, beginning on Saturday night, said Qais Mangal, spokesman for the defence ministry in Kabul.

“The fighting is still on,” Mangal said, adding that the Taliban had overrun four posts and government reinforcement backed by air support had been sent to prevent the whole area from falling to the insurgents.

A member of the Badghis provincial council, Abdul Aziz Beg, said 20 soldiers had been killed, 10 wounded and 20 captured by the hardline Islamist group.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks in Badghis, which is on the border with Turkmenistan.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said 20 soldiers had been killed, 28 captured and a large supply of weapons and ammunition seized.Southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in Ghazni city, an air strike on a vehicle killed seven Taliban on Tuesday, including a commander, said Mohammad Arif Noori, spokesman for Ghazni’s provincial governor. He said the strike happened close to a mosque and may have left civilian casualties.

Dr Zaher Shah Nekmal, health director for Ghazni province, said he had received a report of 16 dead but had not yet received the bodies.

In a statement, the Taliban said one air strike hit a minibus and a second followed quickly, killing a total of 12 people and wounding six.

A Nato spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.—Reuters

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