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Dozens of Militants Dead as Taliban Rival Groups Clash in Afghanistan

FILE - Members of a Taliban breakaway faction walk during a gathering, in Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.

Dozens of insurgents have been killed in clashes between two rival Taliban groups in western Afghanistan, local officials tell VOA.

At least 40 Taliban militants from the warring sides have been killed in clashes between the two sides in the Khifaan region of Shindand district in western Herat province, bordering with Iran, according to Jailani Farhad, the spokesperson for Herat’s governor.

The clashes also left at least a dozen militants wounded on both sides, provincial authorities told VOA.

The infighting erupted Saturday night between two Taliban commanders, Mullah Samad and Mullah Nangyalai. The former supports the new Taliban leader, Mullah Hebatullah, who became Taliban leader following the death of his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in neighboring Pakistan's Baluchistan province in May 2016.

Nangyali belongs to Mullah Mohammad Rasool's group that severed ties with the Taliban's leadership and has been operating as a splinter of the insurgent group in the country.

The group refused to pledge allegiance to Hebatullah as the leader of the movement. Since the separation, both groups have engaged in periodic clashes in Herat and elsewhere in the country.

Ghazni operation

In another development in southern Ghazni province, dozens of Taliban insurgents have reportedly been killed in clashes with Afghan security forces that launched a new offensive against the militants in the province.

As many as 38 Taliban militants were killed in Ghazni’s restive Andar district Saturday, Ghazni police chief, General Mohammad Zaman told VOA.

FILE - Afghan national army soldiers stand near the body of a Taliban fighter killed in Ghazni province, eastern Afghanistan, Sept. 14, 2015.
FILE - Afghan national army soldiers stand near the body of a Taliban fighter killed in Ghazni province, eastern Afghanistan, Sept. 14, 2015.

Zaman said a local Taliban commander, identified as Qari Fazlur Rahman alias Qari Kochi, and two group leaders, identified as Abdul Ali and Omar Farouq, were also killed in the operation.

The joint-operation by Afghan Special Forces and U.S forces, comes days after the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on Anadr district police headquarters, killing about 40 people, including civilians, and wounding more than 30 others.

A wave of violence

Since Tuesday, a wave of terror attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State, killed and injured hundreds of people, in what is called one of the deadliest weeks in recent years in the country. The suicide attacks and bombings, including attacks on mosques, killed more than 200 people last week in several Afghan provinces.

Taliban have increased their attacks to portray the insurgent group as a force to reckon with while the Islamic State terror group is attacking the county's Shi’ite minority, to start a sectarian war in the country.

“These brutal and senseless attacks against people at prayer are atrocities. The persons most responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) while condemning a suicide blast that killed at least 15 cadets and wounded several others in Kabul on Saturday.

The United States has also condemned the violence in the country and reaffirmed U.S support to the Afghan government and its security forces.

“In the face of these senseless and cowardly acts, our commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering. The United Sates stands with the government and people of Afghanistan and will continue to support their efforts to achieve peace and security for their country,” the U.S. State Department said Friday.

VOA’s Khalil Noorzai and Zafar Bamiani contributed to this report from Herat and Ghazni provinces.