Taleban announce annual spring offensive in Afghanistan, South Asia News & Top Stories

Taleban announce annual spring offensive in Afghanistan, South Asia News & Top Stories

At least 27 Taliban fighters have been killed in their attack on a government building in the province of Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan, officials said on Saturday.

The Taliban seized Kunduz for around two weeks in 2015 before withdrawing in the face of a NATO-backed Afghan offensive.

The government of Afghanistan, besides defending the country and its sovereignty, once again urged the Taliban leadership to give up illegitimate fighting and join the peace talks to end the war in the country, the statement added.

Another 25 militants were killed by the security forces and 12 more suffered wounds in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, the Defense Ministry said in a separate press release.

The bloodshed comes as the USA pushes for a peace settlement with the Taliban, and ahead of a new round of talks expected to take place in Qatar later this month.

The Taliban, who effectively control almost half the country, have continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces despite holding several rounds of talks with the United States aimed at ending the 17-year war.

The Taliban announced their spring offensive on Friday morning which is entitled Operation Al-Fatha - which means "victory" in Arabic.

In Kabul, Afghan government officials announced that they plan to send a 100-member delegation to Doha, which will include government representatives as well, although most of its members will come from outside the government.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, calling the government a "puppet" of the West.

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Taliban, according to the government statement, launched multi-pronged offensive with two vehicle bombs followed by gunfight on Friday night to capture Shirzad district, but the security forces' "sharp reaction forced the insurgents to retreat".

Nangarhar Gov. Shahmahmood Miakhel said Afghan forces repelled the attack after reinforcements arrived.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office on Saturday condemned "in the strongest words" the announcement of Operation Fath.

The security official added that the Afghan forces maintained control over the checkpoint but one police officer had died during the clashes.

The spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though fighting nowadays continues unabated throughout the year.

The insurgents effectively control almost half of Afghanistan and have continued to launch daily attacks on security forces despite holding several rounds of peace talks with the United States in recent months.

But on Monday three US Marines were killed in a Taliban blast at Bagram air base north of the city, and authorities in the capital are on high alert for new attacks.

"Taliban peace interlocutors" names have been removed from the UN Security Council black list for nine months, the group's spokesman claimed on Friday.

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