Officials in Afghanistan said Friday insurgents in separate attacks have kidnapped 33 employees of a construction company and killed at least 20 government security forces.
The Taliban has launched major coordinated attacks across the country since ending its three-day Eid cease-fire on Sunday, killing more than 100 Afghan forces and overrunning new territory.
The kidnapping occurred near the border with Pakistan in the southern province of Kandahar.
A provincial government spokesman, Daud Ahmadi, told VOA the area police swiftly tried to rescue the abductees, but they failed to do so and lost four of their personnel in the process.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, though Kandahar is one of former strongholds of the Taliban.
Separately, a predawn Taliban attack in western Badghis province killed 16 police personnel and two civilians. An insurgent spokesman claimed Taliban fighters also seized a large quality of ammunition and other equipment.
The attack came a day after insurgents overran Afghan army posts and killed more than 40 soldiers in another part of Badghis.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting is raging in central eastern Maidan Wardak province where the Taliban staged a major early morning attack on government security outposts.
A provincial government spokesman told VOA the fighting blocked a main road for traffic, stranding hundreds of passengers.
The Taliban has captured a key base and over a dozen security posts in the fighting, claimed insurgent spokesman Zabihullah in a statement sent to reporters.
The Taliban temporarily halted attacks on Afghan forces during Eid holidays but resumed battlefield activities from Monday after rejecting the government’s request to extend their limited cease-fire.
President Ashraf Ghani extended by 10 days his unilateral cease-fire, initially due to end Wednesday. But rising insurgent attacks have prompted severe criticism of Ghani for unilaterally extending the cease-fire.
The president defended his initiatives, hoping it would encourage the insurgents to quit violence to come to the table for peace talks to end the Afghan war. The national Eid cease-fire was the first in the last 17 years of the fighting in Afghanistan.
The Taliban killed nearly 500 pro-government forces in May, according to government officials and Afghan media reports.
Taliban seeks U.S. talks
The Islamist insurgency dismisses the Afghan government as an American "puppet regime" and has been demanding direct talks with the United States.
Washington rejects the idea of holding direct talks with the Taliban and maintains that Afghans themselves have to determine their own future. Senior U.S. diplomat for the region, Alice Wells, reiterated that stance while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
"The United States has made clear that we are prepared to support, facilitate and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban," Wells stated.
"We will support the government and all Afghan stakeholders as they work to reach a mutually agreeable negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and ensures Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven for terrorist groups."
The Taliban is said to be controlling or influencing nearly half of Afghanistan as it continues to overrun new territory, posing a big challenge for international-backed efforts to convince the insurgency to hold peace talks with Kabul.
New research based on interviews with insurgent officials has concluded the Taliban has established a "system of parallel governance" in vast swathes of Afghanistan.
The detailed study by the Overseas Development Institute says the Islamist insurgency controls education, access to information, health care, economic activity, expression, behavior and life prospects for millions of Afghans.
"That the Taliban set the rules in vast swathes of the country is a reality with which few in the international community are willing to engage ... the most urgent question is what can or should be done now to shape the rules for Afghans living under the Taliban."