KUNDUZ -- The Taliban killed about two dozen Afghan police and pro-government fighters, officials said Monday (March 30), in two attacks that come as the foes are supposed to be preparing for peace talks.
In one of the incidents March 29, the insurgents killed at least six soldiers and 13 police and pro-government militiamen at several outposts near a police headquarters building in Takhar Province, provincial police spokesman Abdul Khalil Aseer told AFP.
A wedding party was being held in the building at the time, but the attackers did not reach the headquarters.
"The police bravely defended and prevented the Taliban from entering the celebration," Aseer said.
Muhammad Azam Afzali, a member of Takhar's provincial council, gave a slightly lower toll, saying 17 police and pro-government militiamen were killed in the fighting that lasted at least seven hours.
The Taliban did not immediately comment.
Meanwhile, a Taliban attack on an army outpost in Zabul Province March 29 left at least six soldiers dead, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Four people were also wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a small truck went off in Kabul city March 30, the Interior Ministry said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility.
The latest bloodshed comes during diplomatic efforts to kick-start talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The insurgents had agreed to speak to the government under a deal with the United States signed in Doha last month, but the dialogue has been derailed by a dispute over a prisoner exchange.
The talks were slated to start in Oslo on March 10. Now it is unclear when they may begin.
The militants March 28 also rejected an Afghan government negotiating team set up to hold talks with the insurgent group.
After months of delays, the government March 27 announced a 21-member team -- including five women -- to take part in the upcoming talks, a crucial step in bringing the warring parties to the table and getting a floundering, US-led peace process back on track.
"The Taliban stance on the Afghan negotiating team is interesting. It’s like you have a football match with another team and insist that you decide who plays on the opposite side," Waheed Omar, an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani on public and strategic affairs, wrote on Twitter March 29.
"Talib Jana [dear Talib], we have selected our team, your job is to select yours. Time to go for the toss!" he wrote.