Taliban kill 15 Afghan forces on eve of Ramadan

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KABUL, Afghanistan

At least 15 security forces were killed in Taliban attacks in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the eve of Ramadan, officials said amid growing calls for a cease-fire during the holy month.

According to Afghan National Army’s 209-Shaheen Corps, the Taliban staged a deadly assault in Chamtal district of Balkh province late last night.

Spokesman Mohammad Haneef Rezay said five soldiers and seven Taliban fighters got killed in the exchange of fire at the spot, which is less than 40 kilometers (24 miles) from the regional army headquarters in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Taking responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed 11 soldiers were killed in the ambush. Five security forces have been captured and a large cache of arms seized, he claimed.

Meanwhile, 10 Afghan security personnel were killed in identical attacks in northern Baghlan and Badakhshsan provinces.

In his Ramadan message, President Ashraf Ghani said Taliban must prove with actions their will and desire for peace in Afghanistan.

“I demand from the Taliban group once again to end illegitimate war, violence and their enmity towards people out of respect for Ramadan. And, say yes to the people’s legitimate calls for a permanent cease-fire,” he said.

Massive public gatherings were held in various parts of the war-torn country on Monday, urging the Taliban to lay down arms in the month of fasting.

Violence in Afghanistan has not abated despite the launch of intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar last September, which aim to end decades of war.

Turkey is set to host key stakeholders of the peace process in Istanbul later this month.

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