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HERAT/KABUL: Twenty Afghan amputees, some in wheelchairs and others on crutches, began a gruelling trek of hundreds of kilometres across Afghanistan on Tuesday, demanding an end to the war that cost them their limbs.

The “peace convoy” began its journey in the western city of Herat and will finish on the other side of the country in the capital Kabul, running the gauntlet of militants, roadside bombs and blistering temperatures.

“We are taking this journey of more than 1,000 kilometres to Kabul to tell the world to stop the war,” Mohammad Musa, 40, who lost both legs in a landmine explosion, said.

“The war has brought nothing except destruction.” Abubaker Qaderi, whose right leg was blown off by a roadside bomb 15 years ago, called for a “permanent ceasefire” in the latest conflict, which began with the 2001 US-led invasion.

“War must stop, we want peace,” the 50-year-old said before setting off towards Kabul.

“For the sake of the next generation, they should stop fighting,” another protester called Khan Zai he said. The march comes weeks after another group demanding peace walked 700 kilometres from the southern city of Lashkar Gah to Kabul, much of it during the fasting month of Ramazan.

That march, believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan, arrived in the city on June 18 as the Taliban ended an unprecedented three-day ceasefire and resumed fighting.

Taliban attacks kill 12 in Afghanistan

A string of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have killed 12 people, including four women who died in the crossfire during a shootout between insurgents and soldiers, while an errant Nato air strike killed nine Afghan police, Afghan officials said on Tuesday.

The Taliban attacked a military checkpoint in the western Farah province, killing four troops and wounding six, according to Mohammad Naser Mehri, the provincial governor’s spokesman. The attack in Bala Buluk district started late Monday night and lasted for several hours. Mehri said Afghan air strikes killed 19 Taliban fighters and wounded 30. “The Taliban were pushed back and the situation is under control now,” he said.

In the eastern Logar province, the four women were killed and four children were wounded in the crossfire during a shootout near Puli Alim, the provincial capital, said Hasib­ullah Stanikzai, a provincial council member. He said an investigation is underway to determine which side caused the civilian casualties.

In a separate attack in Logar, the Taliban assaulted police checkpoints in the Azrah district, setting off heavy fighting and causing the police to call for help.

Nasrat Rahimi, the deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Nato carried out an air strike in the area that mistakenly killed nine police and wounded another 14. He said Nato and the Afghan government have launched a joint investigation into the incident.

Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for Nato, confirmed that it carried out an air strike in support of Afghan forces in Azrah. “We are aware of varying and unconfirmed reports, and are looking into the matter further,” he added.

Rahimi said around 30 Taliban fighters were killed in the battle. The Taliban have not commented on any of the recent attacks.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2018