Afghan Fighting Intensifies As Government, Taliban Prepare For Talks

FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man wearing a protective face mask walks past a wall painted with photo of Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan

Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified resulting in the deaths of over 50 people, including security personnel, as the government and the Taliban militant group were preparing for peace talks.

Amid increasing fighting, the two sides have been accusing each other of sabotaging the peace process.

In the latest wave of violent incidents, Taliban militants attacked security checkpointsin Darazin area of Daikundi province on Saturday morning, killing five and wounding four others, provincial police spokesman Gul Aqa Sajadi said.

Three militants were also killed in the gunfight that lasted for hours, the official added.

The Taliban outfit, which accuses the government of sabotaging the peace talks, is yet to confirm the attack.

Taliban militants have also blamed the government for intentionally delaying the release of prisoners to facilitate the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban political office in Doha has reportedly said that the intra-Afghan dialogue would take place within a week “if the Kabul administration set free all the 5,000 prisoners” demanded by the armed group.

The exchange of 5,000 Taliban inmates with 1,000 Afghan troopers is part of the US-Taliban peace deal signed in late February to facilitate the intra-Afghan dialogue, pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces and to end the war in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has released more than 5,000 prisoners but has still held 380 controversial inmates, although Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has inked the decree for their release.

A senior government official, Wahid Omar said recently that the Taliban has “no political and cultural assets, except imposing violence” for the talk.

The Taliban-led violent incidents, according to a statement of Interior Ministry released on Thursday, had claimed the lives of 121 civilians and wounded 336 others over the past two weeks.

Observers predict more fighting and violent incidents ahead of the peace talks.

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