Afghan authorities said Wednesday Taliban attacks in the country's north have killed at least 17 security forces and injured about a dozen more.
The violence comes as warring sides in Afghanistan are preparing to meet in Qatar later this month for a preliminary round of peace negotiations.
A government spokesman in northern Jawzjan province told VOA that insurgents overnight stormed two security outposts in Aqcha district from multiple directions to try to capture them.
Marouf Azar said the ensuing clashes continued into early morning, killing 12 Afghan soldiers and injuring five others. “(The) Taliban also took four security personnel captive,” he confirmed.
A regional military official separately issued a statement saying, the fighting also killed five assailants and wounded 10 others.
The Taliban claimed in a statement its fighters overran the outposts “killing, injuring and capturing” around 50 government troops, though insurgent claims are often inflated and difficult to confirm from independent sources.
The second insurgent attack took place late on Tuesday near the volatile northern city of Kunduz. Taliban fighters attacked security outposts and reportedly killed at least five Afghan soldiers while seven others were also wounded.
Insurgent officials did not make any comment on the fighting in Kunduz.
Afghan officials have said intensified battlefield attacks by the Taliban killed more than 170 security forces and injured 250 others in the last week alone across the country.
Rise in violence against health workers
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned the recent rise in targeted attacks against healthcare facilities in Afghanistan amidst the coronavirus pandemic threaten to reduce or prevent access to health services for millions of people.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the global humanitarian group noted that “a substantial number” of persons suffering COVID-19 in Afghanistan are healthcare personnel. It has put more strain on an “overstretched health system that is challenged by limited coverage in conflict-affected areas, the ICRC said.
“We battle a worldwide enemy and need a country-wide agreement on how to address COVID-19,” said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan.
“As a start, full respect of international humanitarian law by all parties, without exception, is needed to protect civilians in Afghanistan.”
A France-based global medical humanitarian organization this week closed its maternity ward in a hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, following last month’s deadly attack on the facility.
Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, said on Monday that unknown gunmen participating in the May 12 “horrifying” assault on the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital “systematically” killed 16 women, a staffer, two children and six other people present.
No one has claimed responsibility for that attack, nor has the status been known of a promised Afghan government investigation into the bloodshed to bring the perpetrators to justice.