Afghan forces killed in first ‘Taliban attack’ since Eid cease-fire

Afghan authorities have responded to the cease-fire by pushing forward with an agreed prisoner exchange. Above, a newly freed Taliban prisoner from Pul-i-Charkhi prison in Kabul. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Afghan forces killed in first ‘Taliban attack’ since Eid cease-fire

  • Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint in Parwan, north of the capital, early Thursday: spokesperson
  • Afghan authorities have responded to the cease-fire by pushing forward with an agreed prisoner exchange

KABUL: Fourteen members of the Afghan security forces were killed in two separate attacks Thursday in the first deadly assaults officials have blamed on the Taliban since the end of a three-day cease-fire.
The temporary truce ended Tuesday but an overall lull in the country’s grinding violence has largely held despite the latest attacks, raising hopes the militants and Kabul could soon start much-delayed peace talks.
Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint in Parwan, north of the capital, early Thursday, said Waheeda Shahkar, spokeswoman to the provincial governor.
“The Taliban have also suffered casualties,” Shahkar told AFP, saying seven members of the Afghan forces died.
District police chief Hussain Shah said Taliban fighters set fire to the checkpoint, killing five security force personnel. Two more were shot dead.
In the western city of Farah, Taliban gunmen mounted an attack on a police post, killing seven policemen, provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib told AFP.
“Eight Taliban fighters were also killed in the clash that lasted for half-an-hour,” he said, adding four policemen survived the attack.
The Taliban have not commented so far.
Thursday’s attacks are the first such assaults Afghan officials have blamed on the Taliban since the end of the surprise cease-fire offered by the militants over the Eid Al-Fitr festival.
Afghan security forces, however, carried out air strikes in the south on Wednesday that police said had killed 18 “militants.”
According to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, civilian casualties fell by 80 percent during the short truce.
Kabul-based political analyst Sayed Nasir Musawi said he expected the insurgents to reduce attacks, without officially extending the cease-fire.
“Unofficially this cease-fire will continue and we will have a meaningful reduction in violence,” Musawi said.
He added that the truce offer from the Taliban was a signal to the Afghan government and the United States that they were ready to start peace talks.
Afghan authorities have responded to the cease-fire by pushing forward with an agreed prisoner exchange, releasing some 1,000 Taliban prisoners this week, with plans to release more in the coming days.
A Taliban delegation was in Kabul on Thursday to discuss the prisoner swap with government officials, National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
The ongoing exchange is part of a US-Taliban deal signed in February, which excluded the Afghan government.
Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates before the cease-fire, while the insurgents had released about 300 government captives.
The Afghan government has repeatedly called for extending the truce and launching peace talks.
The future of talks “depends on the Taliban’s next move,” Faisal told AFP this week.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has made it a priority to end America’s longest war, and in a bid to pull out foreign forces US officials have been pushing the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.


Russia announces coronavirus deaths exceed 10,000

Updated 18 min 12 sec ago

Russia announces coronavirus deaths exceed 10,000

  • Russia has confirmed 674,515 cases, the third largest total in the world, although the daily infection rate has been falling over the last month
MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday said that it recorded more than 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, a toll that is still far lower than in other countries with major outbreaks.
The number of deaths has now reached 10,027, the government information website said, up by 168 from Friday.
Russia has confirmed 674,515 cases, the third largest total in the world, although the daily infection rate has been falling over the last month.
The country’s death toll is much lower than in other countries with large outbreaks, raising questions over possible underreporting of deaths.
Russia has acknowledged that the death figure on the government website only includes cases where the virus was classed as the main cause of death on the death certificate.
The official statistics agency has released national death data for April alone, where the toll — of 2,712 — is more than double the government’s total of 1,152 for that month.
That is because it uses a broader definition on the basis of World Health Organization recommendations and includes cases where the victim tested positive but the virus was not classified as the main cause of death, or where there was no positive test but an autopsy ruled the virus was the main cause of death.
Moscow city health department also released data on deaths in May using this method of classification, showing 5,260 virus-related deaths that month.
By contrast, the government website still says that some 3,929 people in total have died so far from the virus just in Moscow.