Afghan officials say strikes on Taliban positions killed 30 fighters in northern Kunduz province, but Taliban says the botched raid killed 23 civilians instead.

An Afghan pilot stands next to A-29 Super Tucano plane during a handover ceremony of A-29 Super Tucano planes from US to the Afghan forces, in Kabul, Afghanistan September 17, 2020.
An Afghan pilot stands next to A-29 Super Tucano plane during a handover ceremony of A-29 Super Tucano planes from US to the Afghan forces, in Kabul, Afghanistan September 17, 2020. (Reuters)

The Afghan air force has conducted multiple strikes on Taliban positions in which more than 30 insurgent fighters were killed, officials said. 

Taliban immediately disputed the claim saying the strikes on Saturday killed 23 civilians instead.   

"This morning, Taliban fighters attacked (Afghan army) positions in ... Khan Abad district in Kunduz province," the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

The military "intercepted the attack in accordance with 'active defence' procedures," the statement added, noting that more than 30 Taliban fighters including two commanders were killed. 

The Taliban claimed the strike killed nearly 23 civilians including women and children in the latest mass-casualty incident in Afghanistan that came even as peace talks were under way in Qatar.

Civilains hospitalised

Provincial officials told Reuters news agency the strikes on a Taliban base killed at least 12 civilians and injured more than 10 people. 

The Defence Ministry said it was aware of the claim and would investigate.

Local hospital director Mohammad Naeem Mangal told AFP news agency that three dead and three wounded civilians had been brought to the facility. 

"The first strike hit the Taliban base but the second one caused civilian casualties as they had gathered at the bombed site," said Fatima Aziz, a member of parliament who represents Kunduz.

She said 11 civilians were killed and five people were missing in the Khanabad district of Kunduz province.

According to another witness, the air strikes left 12 civilians killed, including children, and 18 others wounded. 

The witness said that several Taliban militants had been killed.

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Ghani seeks ceasefire 

The attack came shortly before Afghan President Ashraf Ghani once again called for a humanitarian ceasefire "to protect our people, prevent violence and terrorist incidents, and to achieve a dignified and lasting peace."

The insurgents have so far ignored such requests, though they have unilaterally called two short, separate truces this year in the run-up to peace talks, which opened a week ago in Doha. 

Talks have progressed slowly so far, with the two sides still undecided about an agenda. 

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Trump compliments Taliban

On Friday, US President Donald Trump complimented the Taliban for being tough and smart, and he said the United States is dealing well with the Afghan insurgent group.

"We're dealing very well with the Taliban," Trump told a news conference. 

"They're very tough, they're very smart, they're very sharp, but you know it's been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness."

Taliban's government was overthrown by the US which invaded Afghanistan a month after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, is eager to claim an end to America's longest conflict, and his administration has voiced its intention to use aid as leverage to push for a peace deal in Afghanistan.

The United States is set to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, subject to the Taliban meeting certain security guarantees.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies