MAZAR-E-SHARIF -- Taliban fighters killed at least 18 Afghan security personnel Wednesday (June 17) in two attacks on checkpoints in the north, officials said, in the latest violence ahead of expected peace talks.
In one pre-dawn raid, militants killed 12 Afghan security force members when they stormed a checkpoint in Jawzjan Province, Abdul Marouf Azar, spokesman to the governor, told AFP.
"Twelve security personnel including army soldiers were killed, five were injured and four were captured by the Taliban," he said.
Five Taliban members were killed in the fighting, which ended after Afghan reinforcements arrived at the scene, he said.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the attack and said six of its soldiers were among the dead.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility but gave a higher toll.
Fighting in Kunduz
Separately, Taliban fighters were blamed for a raid on an army outpost in Kunduz.
Six soldiers were killed in combat that lasted about five hours, said Aminullah Iddin, a member of the provincial council.
Army spokesman Col. Abdul Hadi Jamal confirmed the battle, saying four Taliban militants were killed.
The Taliban have not commented on that raid.
The latest bloodshed comes as the insurgents and the Afghan government appear to be moving closer towards potential peace negotiations.
The much-delayed talks aimed at ending the conflict are expected to begin once the two sides complete a prisoner swap accelerated after a brief ceasefire last month.
Officials claim the Taliban have stepped up attacks in recent days, although there has been an overall drop in violence across the country since the ceasefire ended.