Afghan officials say the Taliban killed eight police in two separate attacks in Afghanistan on Thursday. The news comes as calls continue for the extension of an Eid al Fitr ceasefire, and a renewed offer of peace from Kabul.
The Taliban killed eight police in two separate attacks in Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said.
Arif Noori, a spokesman for the governor of the southern Ghazni province, says six police were killed and four were wounded in an attack on security posts early Thursday.
He says at least seven insurgents were killed in the hours-long gun battle.
In northern Baghlan province, the Taliban killed two police and wounded another three, according to police spokesman Zabiullah Shuja.
The Taliban have not claimed either attack.
Thursday's attacks come a day after the Taliban killed 30 Afghan soldiers and captured a military base in the western province of Badghis, the provincial governor said.
The attack was the Taliban's first major attack since a ceasefire for the Eid al Fitr holiday.
Provincial governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai said the Taliban attacked two security posts in the early hours of Wednesday. Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said one military base was targeted, in the district of Balamerghab.
Fifteen Taliban were killed in other areas of the province overnight Tuesday, he said, adding that the militants prepared their attacks and did reconnaissance of the area during their ceasefire.
Ghani calls for extension of ceasefire
The attacks on Wednesday and Thursday followed a call from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to extend to a year a three-day Eid al Fitr ceasefire with the Taliban.
“I am ready to sit with them [Taliban leadership] in the desert, in the mountains, in the mosque… wherever they want," Ghani said on Tuesday.
The ceasefire ended on Saturday, and it's unclear whether the latest violence will derail efforts for peace.
In February, Ghani offered an olive branch to the Taliban, who have waged a brutal war in the country for the past 17 years.
Ghani said if the offer of an extended ceasefire is accepted, a political framework will be established, and steps will be taken to free Taliban prisoners.
Saudi king calls for renewal of ceasefire
Among those who welcomed the Eid al Fitr ceasefire was Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz who also called for its renewal, according to a statement from the Royal Court of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, may God protect him, has followed with great interest the truce reached by the Afghan government and Taliban movement during the days of Eid at Fitr, expressing – may God support him – his pleasure over this blessed step and his support for it, hoping that it will be renewed and built upon for a longer period so that all parties can work together to achieve peace for the Afghan people."
The Saudi king called on the people of Afghanistan to seek reconciliation for the sake of security and stability.
Uzbekistan starts direct negotiations with Taliban
Uzbekistan meanwhile has announced that it has made direct contact with the Taliban in order to facilitate negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government.
The Uzbek foreign ministry said in a statement that in order to realise the common position of the participants of Afghanistan Conference which was held in the capital Tashkent in March, Uzbekistan has had "constructive" conversations with senior members of the Taliban.
According to Tashkent, Uzbek officials discussed with the Taliban the provision of long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, the question of the country's economic development, and prospects for mutual cooperation in the future.
In a declaration issued at the end of the March conference, all sides "strongly" supported the Afghan government's offer to launch direct talks with the Taliban without any preconditions.
That declaration was adopted by officials from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, France, Germany, the US, England, and the EU.