Afghan forces repel Taliban attack on Kandahar

Dozens of Taliban fighters were killed in fierce overnight fighting between Afghan forces and militants who attacked several checkpoints in the insurgent bastion of Kandahar, officials said Sunday.

Taliban militants attacked checkpoints in five districts surrounding the city of Kandahar, which Afghan forces countered with heavy air and ground assaults, the ministry of defence said on Sunday.

“The security forces repulsed the attack, killing 51 terrorists and wounding nine,” the ministry said. They gave no details of any casualties among government forces.

The fighting lasted for several hours through the night, marked with continuous gun battles and heavy bombardments, an AFP correspondent reported from Kandahar.

The southern province of Kandahar is the birthplace of the hardline Islamist movement, and over the past few days militants launched attacks in districts on the outskirts of the city of Kandahar, the provincial capital.

The Taliban launched a similar offensive in the neighbouring province of Helmand in September that caused tens of thousands of residents to flee.

That attack, which also targeted the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, prompted the US to call in air strikes to defend Afghan forces.

Since a US-Taliban deal in February, the insurgents have not carried out major attacks on key cities but have launched near-daily assaults against Afghan forces in rural areas.

The surge in violence in recent months comes as the Taliban and Afghan government engage in peace talks.

The negotiations started on September 12 in the Qatari capital of Doha, but on Saturday the two sides announced a pause until January 5.

The insurgents and the government side both tweeted they had exchanged “preliminary lists of agenda items for the inter-Afghan talks and held introductory discussions on the topics” to be covered when the meetings restart.

In recent months, Kabul has suffered several deadly attacks claimed by the extremist ISIS group, including a rocket attack on Saturday that killed a civilian.

On Sunday, a bomb planted on a vehicle killed two civilians in the capital, police said.