Kabul, Afghanistan | July 17
An Islamic State suicide bomber killed 20 people in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a Taliban commander, while in southern Helmand province, a government commando unit freed 54 people from a Taliban-run jail, officials said. I
n southern Kandahar province, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Arghistan district late on Monday night, killing nine policemen and wounding seven, according to Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor.
Zia Durrani, the provincial police spokesman, said 25 Taliban fighters were killed and 15 were wounded in the ensuing battle in Arghistan, a violate districts close to the Pakistani border.
Afghanistan has faced intense attacks by both the Taliban and the country’s Islamic State affiliate recently, even as Washington considers a Taliban demand for direct talks in hopes of jump-starting a negotiated end to what is now the longest military engagement by U.S. forces.
A Taliban official in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial office, told The Associated Press the insurgents want direct talks and are ready to put troop withdrawal as well as any outstanding concerns the United States might have on the table — but that so far, no official request to open negotiations has come from Washington.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, the Taliban official said de-listing Taliban leaders from U.S and U.N. watch lists and recognizing their office in Doha, Qatar’s capital, would aid progress in talks, should they begin.
Meanwhile, in northern Afghanistan’s Sar-i-Pul province, provincial police chief Abdul Qayuom Baqizoi said Tuesday’s attack by IS took place as village elders met with Taliban officials. He said 15 of the 20 killed were local elders and five were Taliban members, including a Taliban commander.