Taliban strikes second city amid peace talks with US

Taliban strikes second city amid peace talks with US
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Taliban forces on Sunday killed security personnel in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, their second attack in two days amid ongoing peace talks with the U.S., according to The Associated Press.

The assault on Puli Khumri, the province’s capital, occurred hours after Zalmay Khalilzad, who is overseeing peace talks on behalf of the U.S., said that he had warned the Taliban during negotiations in Qatar that such attacks must end, the AP noted.

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Provincial police chief Jawed Basharat’s office said firefights on the outskirts of the capital were ongoing. The Afghan interior ministry, meanwhile, reported that two security force personnel, three Taliban fighters and four civilians had been killed, with another two security forces and 20 civilians injured.

Mabobullah Ghafari, a member of the provincial council, told the AP that the situation in the city was deteriorating and that Taliban forces could take the city without reinforcements from the central government in Kabul.

“People are fleeing their houses and properties trying to escape from the city,” he said, according to the AP.

“We hear the sound of blasts. The people are so worried,” added the provincial council chief, Safdar Mohsini. “The Taliban are in residential areas fighting with Afghan security forces. We need reinforcements to arrive as soon as possible.”

Taliban forces killed at least 25 people and wounded another 85 in Kunduz on Saturday, with the interior ministry reporting Sunday that some Taliban forces fled to Baghlan after security forces drove them from Kunduz.

“We are on the verge of ending the invasion and reaching a peaceful solution for Afghanistan,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, said, according to the AP.

Any peace agreement, Khalilzad said, “will reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together to negotiate an honorable & sustainable peace and a unified, sovereign Afghanistan that does not threaten the United States, its allies, or any other country.”