KABUL: Taliban militants killed 30 Afghan soldiers and captured a military base in the western province of Badghis on Wednesday, the provincial governor said, their first major attack since a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The three-day Taliban ceasefire ended on Sunday.

Provincial governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai said the Taliban attacked two security posts in the early hours. Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said one military base was targeted, in the district of Balamerghab.

“Large numbers of Taliban came from several directions,” Bek said. “After hours of heavy fighting 30 Afghan security forces were killed and the Taliban captured the base.”

Fifteen Taliban were killed in other areas of the province overnight, he said, adding that the militants prepared their attacks and did reconnaissance of the area during their ceasefire.

The Taliban said heavy fighting was continuing and that so far “tens” of soldiers had been killed.

Naqibullah Amini, spokesman for the Badghis police, confirmed the death of 30 soldiers and said the Taliban killed four soldiers in separate attacks on security checkpoints in the same district.

The government also called a ceasefire for the holiday and Taliban fighters headed into cities across the country over the weekend as both sides celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. President Ashraf Ghani extended his unilateral ceasefire, initially due to end on Wednesday, by 10 days.

Some have criticised his ceasefire, which allowed the Taliban to freely enter government-held areas, including the capital, Kabul.

“The consequences could be disastrous,” a senior Western diplomat in Kabul said this week.

British Army Lieutenant General Richard Cripwell, deputy commander of Resolute Support, said he had not seen intelligence reporting that the Taliban had used the ceasefire as an opportunity to scope targets in government-held areas.

“Candidly, the Taliban that came into Kabul on Saturday seemed to be more focused on taking selfies, going to the barber, buying ice cream and things like that,” Cripwell told Pentagon reporters in Washington.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018

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