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KABUL: The Taliban launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 26 personnel of security forces, a provincial official said.

The raid on the base in northern Kunduz province came as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders but not Kabul government officials.

The insurgents have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s government, calling it a US puppet. The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the embattled Afghan army and security forces.

In the Kunduz attack, the Taliban stormed the base, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, around 2am, said Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council. There were at least 23 soldiers and three members of the local police force among those slain.

According to Ayubi, 12 troops were wounded in the Taliban onslaught, which lasted over two hours until reinforcements arrived at the besieged base and the attackers were repelled.

“Day by day, the security situation is getting worse in and around Kunduz city,” said Ayubi, adding there are fears the city could again fall into the hands of the Taliban as it did briefly on two occasions in recent years in Sept 2015 and in Oct 2016.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement to the media saying the Taliban were behind the Kunduz attack, claiming the insurgents had overrun three police checkpoints as the attack unfolded.

Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan officials reported two more Taliban attacks that left 21 people dead, including 11 policemen killed when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province’s Baghlani Markazi district.

The checkpoint attack in Baghlan took place on Monday night and triggered a firefight that lasted almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council. Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint before reinforcements arrived, he said.

“They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, the provincial governor’s spokesman. Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Dara-i-Suf district, he said.

According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children. As the area is very remote, the villagers have their own militia to defend their homes from the insurgents. The Taliban claimed both Baghlan and Samangan attacks.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2019