Dozens killed in fighting as Afghan peace talks continue
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Fierce fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban left dozens dead in a restive eastern province, officials said Thursday, as negotiators from both sides pushed ahead with peace talks in Qatar.
Overnight clashes erupted in three districts of Nangarhar province when Taliban fighters attacked several checkpoints of Afghan forces and pro-government militiamen, Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor told AFP.
He said at least 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in fighting in Hesarak, while eight pro-government militiamen were killed in Khogyani.
Khogyani said about 30 Taliban fighters died in the clashes -- including some foreigners. The hardline insurgent group have not commented on the fighting so far.
The latest fighting comes as the Afghan government and Taliban are engaged in talks in Doha aimed at ending the long-running conflict.
Afghanistan's acting Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid blamed the Taliban for the fighting. "There have been no attacks from our side... The enemies continue to attack and spill the blood of Afghans," he said at a ceremony where US forces handed over four A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to the Afghan military.
Peace talks commenced on Saturday after months of delay over a contentious prisoner swap between the two sides.
The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taliban and Washington signed in February, which also paved the way for withdrawing of all foreign forces by May next year.