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Dozens killed as Taliban attack troops in four provinces

Afghan security forces arrive near the site after a bomber blew himself up inside a packed mosque on an Afghan army base in Khost province on November 23, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Taliban militants have killed at least 32 members of security forces and pro-government militias during a series of coordinated attacks on checkpoints in four Afghan provinces.

Officials said the attacks took place in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar, and in the western province of Badghis early Thursday.

In Kunduz, at least 10 soldiers and police were killed and 11 others wounded in the clashes which also left 25 Taliban fighters dead, a local official said.

In neighboring Baghlan and Takhar provinces, local Afghan officials said the Taliban killed 16 members of pro-government militias, but also suffered heavy casualties.

In Badghis, six members of security forces were killed and 10 others wounded, spokesman for the provincial governor Jamshid Shahabi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement, saying dozens of Afghan troops had been killed and a large amount of ammunition and weapons seized.

On Monday, more than 20 Afghan security forces were killed as Taliban militants stormed security checkpoints in Badghis.

The attacks come even as the Kabul government has stepped up efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.

US State Department's special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said he had held "productive" meetings in Abu Dhabi with Afghan and international partners "to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict."

Khalilzad said the Taliban seek an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces, while the US wants assurances from the militant group that its forces would not be attacked.

The talks are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at putting an end to the war in Afghanistan which began with the US invasion 17 years ago.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks. US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump.

Taliban militants have pledged to step up their attacks unless US forces fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

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