KUNDUZ -- Dozens of Taliban fighters stormed three checkposts in pre-dawn raids in Kunduz Province on Tuesday (June 23), killing at least eight security personnel in the latest attack on government forces ahead of expected peace talks.
The simultaneous raids on one army and two police checkpoints in Kunduz Province led to fierce gun battles that lasted for hours, officials said.
Eight members of Afghan security forces were killed and seven more were wounded in the fighting, district chief Nasruddin Saadi told AFP.
Kunduz provincial governor's spokesman Esmatullah Muradi confirmed the co-ordinated attack but said nine security personnel were killed in the night-time battle.
The Taliban so far have not commented.
Taliban fighters have repeatedly attacked security forces in and around Kunduz Province. The city itself has fallen twice to the insurgents in recent years for a brief time.
Taliban members also raided an army checkpost in Balkh Province and another in Ghazni Province during the night, the Defence Ministry said, adding that several insurgents were killed in ensuing clashes.
Ramping up violence
The deadly assaults come after authorities this week accused the Taliban of increasing attacks on Afghan forces at a time when both sides are preparing to start delayed negotiations.
On Monday (June 22), the National Security Council said the Taliban had killed at least 291 Afghan security personnel over the past week, calling it the deadliest week in the 19-year conflict.
President Ashraf Ghani, in an address to the cabinet on June 22, said the violence unleashed by the Taliban was "running against the spirit of commitment for peace".
Violence had dropped across much of Afghanistan since the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire on May 24 to mark the Eid ul Fitr holiday, but officials now accuse the insurgents of stepping up their assaults.
However, Ghani has vowed to complete a Taliban prisoner release as agreed in a deal between the insurgents and Washington in February.
Afghan authorities have already freed about 3,000 Taliban inmates and plan to further release 2,000 as stipulated in the deal as a condition for talks with the Taliban.
The deal between Washington and the Taliban has paved the way for withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan by the middle of 2021 and also for the start of Kabul-Taliban peace talks.