More than 30 Taliban fighters killed in Afghan airstrikes, says defense ministry

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The Afghan air force conducted multiple strikes on Taliban positions Saturday that killed more than 30 insurgent fighters, officials said, as President Ashraf Ghani once again called for a ceasefire.

The Taliban claimed the strike had killed nearly two dozen civilians including women and children in the latest mass-casualty incident in Afghanistan that came even as peace talks were under way in Qatar.

“This morning, Taliban fighters attacked (Afghan army) positions in ... Khan Abad district in Kunduz province,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

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The military “intercepted the attack in accordance with ‘active defense’ procedures,” the statement added, noting that more than 30 Taliban fighters including two commanders were killed.

In a statement, the Taliban denied its fighters were hit and said 23 civilians had been killed.

The defense ministry said it was aware of the claim and would investigate.

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Local hospital director Mohammad Naeem Mangal told AFP that three dead and three wounded civilians had been brought to the facility.

The attack came shortly before Ghani once again called for a humanitarian ceasefire “to protect our people, prevent violence and terrorist incidents and to achieve a dignified and lasting peace.”

The insurgents have so far ignored such requests, though they have unilaterally called two short, separate truces this year in the run-up to peace talks, which opened a week ago in Doha.

Talks have progressed slowly so far, with the two sides still undecided about an agenda.

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