The Taliban killed at least 21 people in their latest attacks in Afghanistan, including 11 policemen who were slain when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province, provincial officials said Tuesday.
The attacks were reported as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders - but not Kabul government officials.
In the checkpoint attack, the Taliban targeted the local police force in the province’s Baghlani Markazi district on Monday night, triggering a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council.
Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived, he said.
“They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor.
Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Samangan’s Dara-I Suf district, he said.
According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children. As the area is very remote, the villagers have their own militia to provide security for their area and defend their homes from the insurgents.
The Taliban claimed both attacks in statements to the media.
The two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures, which starts Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan’s 17-year war, one that has accelerated since the appointment last September of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticized the gathering.
Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, said Monday that the Afghan government should be at the center of any peace talks, adding that Kabul “would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape.”
Abdullah said that Taliban were the biggest obstacle to peace, but that if the Moscow meeting creates “an opening for real peace talks, it would still be a step forward.”
The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the embattled Afghan army and security forces.