Taliban fighters have killed at least 18 Afghan security personnel in two attacks on checkpoints in the north, officials said on Wednesday, the latest violence in advance of expected peace talks.
In one predawn raid, fighters killed 12 Afghan security force members when they stormed a checkpoint in Jowzjan province, Maroof Azar, a spokesman to the governor, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
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He said four security personnel were captured, while five Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.
The defence ministry confirmed the attack and said six of its soldiers were among the dead. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, gave a higher toll.
Separately, Taliban fighters were blamed for a raid on an army outpost in Kunduz.
Six soldiers were killed in fighting that lasted about five hours, said Aminullah Iddin, a member of the provincial council.
Army spokesman Hadi Jamal confirmed the attack, saying four Taliban fighters were also killed.
The Taliban has not commented on that raid.
The Afghan government has said that in recent weeks, some 422 Afghan troops have been killed or wounded across the country in more than 220 Taliban attacks.
The Taliban says it is committed to an agreement it signed with the United States in February. The deal provides for the withdrawal of all international troops remaining in the country and is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The latest bloodshed comes as the armed group and the government inch closer towards potential peace negotiations. The much-delayed talks aimed at ending the conflict are expected to begin in the Qatari capital, Doha, once the two sides complete an ongoing prisoner swap, which has accelerated after a brief ceasefire last month.
Officials claim the Taliban has stepped up attacks in recent days, although there has been an overall drop in violence across the country since the ceasefire ended.