ASADABAD (Afghanistan): Afghan President Hamid Karzai slammed Pakistan for failing to eliminate “terror nests” after Taliban killed 21 soldiers and kidnapped seven in a raid on a border outpost early on Sunday.

The attack in the eastern province of Kunar was the single deadliest strike on Afghan troops in recent months by the militants, and forced Mr Karzai to cancel a planned two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

“During this insurgent attack on Afghan army checkpoint... 21 Afghan national army soldiers were martyred, three wounded,” defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said in a statement. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.

Reinforcements were sent to the area to hunt for the attackers and get the kidnapped troops freed, the defence ministry said.

The militants attacked the reinforcements with a suicide bomb and gun attack but caused no casualties, it added.

A senior official at Afghanistan’s interior ministry who declined to be named said more than a hundred militants “coming from the other side of the border” were involved in the operation.

He also said the authorities were investigating if this attack was linked to the recent killing of Pakistani soldiers.

Mr Karzai demanded action from Pakistan. “President Karzai once again called on Pakistan government that terrorism is a serious threat against both countries and urged Pakistan to seriously and strongly cooperate with the government of Afghanistan, and take serious action in eliminating terror nests,” a statement from his office said.

President Karzai cancelled a trip to Sri Lanka where he had been due to hold talks with his counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in Colombo.

Kunar provincial governor Shujah-ul-Mulk Jalala said some of the soldiers in the post were thought to have aided the Taliban. This could not be confirmed and the Taliban did not mention insider help in their statement.

“The Mujahideen overran a key enemy outpost in an assault last night in Ghaziabad,” said the statement sent by text message to reporters, terming the Afghan troops “hirelings”.

Afghanistan is gripped by a deadly insurgency which has been waged by remnants of the Taliban since a US-led invasion toppled them from power in 2001.

The militants’ campaign has gathered pace and become more deadly, using a combination of suicide bombings as well as attacks involving multiple individuals storming targets in big cities and fighting until they are killed.

The Western-funded Kabul government is trying to strike a peace deal with the Taliban before the withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of this year. So far, the Taliban have turned down all peace offers from Mr Karzai’s administration.

Afghanistan will go to the polls on April 5 to select a successor to Mr Karzai, as some 55,000 remaining US-led combat troops pull out of the country.—AFP

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