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Taliban raid kills 18 members of security forces in western Afghanistan

Afghan security forces gather at the site of an attack by Taliban militants, a day after the assault on a compound housing an international aid organization, in Kabul on May 9, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

At least 18 members of Afghan security forces have been killed after Taliban militants stormed several posts providing protection to a historic minaret in western Afghanistan.  

Abdul Hai Khatebi, the provincial governor spokesman of the western province of Ghor, said on Wednesday that 15 pro-government militias and three policemen had been killed in the attacks, which started Monday. 

Sayed Zia Hussaini, the deputy police chief of Ghor, confirmed that militants ran over some checkpoints around the revered 12th-century Jam minaret. "The Taliban have captured some checkpoints around the minaret. We had to retreat because more fighting would cause damage to the minaret." 

Fakhruddin Ariapur, the Ghor province director of information and culture, said that the Taliban assaults had cut the government access to the area.

"The Taliban have shut off telecommunication towers and have cut any access to the area,” Ariapur said, adding, "The cleaning-up work (from the flood) has stopped and we don't know what is happening there." 

The attack comes less than a week after the minaret, which is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, was threatened by surging floodwaters.

This handout photo taken on May 22, 2019 and released by the Information and Culture Department of Ghor province shows Afghan men working at a site near the Minaret of Jam following floodwaters in the Shahrak District of Ghor Province. (Photo by AFP)

Late last week, dramatic video footage showed brown torrents crashing up against the base of the brick minaret, which was built in about 1190. On Monday, the government had hired about 300 local workers to channel floodwaters away from the tower. 

The war-wracked country has been struggling to stop scores of deadly attacks by the Taliban militant group almost across the country over the past months. 

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on security installations in their so-called spring offensive amid direct talks with the United States, rejecting calls by the US’s chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad to lay down their arms.

This comes as a sixth round of talks between the US and Taliban recently ended in the Qatari capital Doha with no tangible progress. The Taliban have said peace negotiations were stumbling over the fundamental question of when foreign forces would depart the war-ravaged country.

The administration of President Donald Trump is now negotiating with the Taliban in an attempt to discourage the group from attacking US troops. 

Many parts of the country remain under militant control despite the years-long presence of US-led foreign forces in the country.

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