Dozens killed in fighting as intra-Afghan talks continue in Doha
Fierce fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban has resulted in dozens of casualties in a restive eastern province as negotiators from both warring sides pushed ahead with talks in the Qatari capital, Doha.
According to the reports, Ataullah Khogyani Spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, said on Thursday that Taliban militants attacked several checkpoints of Afghan forces and pro-government militiamen during a series of overnight clashes in three districts of the troubled province.
Khogyani said at least 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in the fierce fighting in Hesarak, while eight pro-government militiamen were killed in Khogyani. He said about 30 Taliban militants died in the battles.
Afghanistan's acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid blamed the Taliban for the latest fighting.
"There have been no attacks from our side... The enemies continue to attack and spill the blood of Afghans," he said at a ceremony.
The Afghan Defense Ministry earlier said the Taliban and government forces were still fighting in many places across the war-ravaged country.
The fighting came after peace talks commenced in Doha on Saturday following months of delay over a contentious prisoner swap between the two sides.
At a ceremony opening the talks on Saturday, the Afghan government called for a ceasefire, but the Taliban did not mention a truce as they came to the negotiating table.
Diplomats and delegates warned during the opening ceremony that the negotiations will be arduous and messy.
Observers said although getting both sides to the negotiating table was a major achievement, this does not mean the path to peace will be easy, especially with violence increasing around Afghanistan.