More than 30 Taliban militants were killed in multiple Afghan air force strikes on Saturday, said Afghan officials.
The attacks happened as the Islamist militant group and the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, begin long-awaited peace talks.
The strikes targeted locations in the Khan Abad district in northern Kunduz province, tweeted the Ministry of Defense. The offensive was carried out after Taliban fighters attacked Afghan forces, alleged the ministry.
Two commanders: “Qari Abdulrazeq” and “Mawlawi Abbas,” were killed, according to the ministry.
In their own statement, the Taliban denied its fighters were hit and said at least 23 civilians had been killed.
The Afghan Defense Ministry stated: “Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians or ANDSF [Afghan National Security Forces] personnel,” while noting it was “aware of reports” that civilians were injured.
The ministry said it plans to investigate the claim.
News agency Reuters cited several sources, claiming civilians were killed in the strikes, including Fatima Aziz, a member of parliament who represents Kunduz. “The first strike hit the Taliban base but the second one caused civilian casualties as they had gathered at the bombed site,” she said.
The airstrikes left 12 civilians killed, including children, and 18 others injured, reported another witness, speaking to Reuters. The witness said that several Taliban militants had been killed.
What about the ceasefire and peace talks?
Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban has continued even as representatives of the government and the insurgents gathered last week in Doha for historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war.
The insurgents have so far ignored requests by Ghani for a longer humanitarian ceasefire, though they have unilaterally called two short, separate truces this year in the run-up to the talks.
kmm/mm (AFP, Reuters)