At least four Afghan security forces and a US service member have been killed in two separate attacks claimed by the Taliban as violence continues across Afghanistan despite efforts to end the 18-year war.
An attack on a commercial building housing a hotel and shops in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province in western Afghanistan, killed four security personnel and wounded 20 others, including civilians, officials said on Saturday.
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“The attackers took over a building near the governor’s office and police headquarters,” Badghis Governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai told the AFP news agency.
Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry said at least three Taliban attackers were also killed in the attack and two others arrested.
In a separate incident, NATO said a US service member was killed in action on Saturday in Sayed Abad district of central Wardak province, some 70km south of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“The name of the service member killed in action is being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete,” Resolute Support, the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
While NATO did not provide further details, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing “two US soldiers” by “blowing up an American tank”. The United States does not use tanks in Afghanistan.
The discrepancy between the number of fatalities given by the US and the Taliban could not immediately be explained, but the Taliban often exaggerates its claims.
Series of attacks after Doha talks
The two incidents on Saturday came less than a week after Taliban officials sat face-to-face with Afghan leaders as well as US negotiators in Qatar in a bid to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
On Friday, at least six people were killed and 14 others wounded after a suicide bomber, believed to be in his early teens, targeted a wedding celebration in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province.
The Nangarhar attack came three days after Afghan forces killed several civilians, including a mother and her six children, during an air and ground raid in the northern Baghlan province on Tuesday.
On Monday, Afghan leaders and Taliban pledged to “minimise civilian casualties to zero” and guarantee the security of public institutions such as schools, religious centres, mosques and hospitals at a meeting in Qatar’s capital Doha, where the two sides continue to hold peace talks.
Between January and March this year, air operations by Afghan and international forces have caused at least 145 deaths, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total deaths during that period, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its quarterly report in April.
Women and children comprised half of those casualties (145 deaths and 83 injuries), according to the UN agency.
US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been holding peace talks with Taliban aimed at hammering out the details of a framework agreement reached in January.
The framework agreement includes a timeline for US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, a ceasefire and a Taliban guarantee to not allow foreign forces to use the country as a staging ground for foreign attacks.