KABUL: Two separate attacks in Afghanistan have killed at least 18 people amid a wave of violence across the country, local Afghan officials said on Saturday.

A local police chief in western Ghor, Fakhrudin, said Taliban insurgents stormed a police checkpoint late Friday night and killed ten police officers.

He added that one policeman was wounded and another one was still missing after the attack in the remote village in the Pasaband district.

The police official blamed the Taliban for the attack who have a strong presence in the area, especially in the Pasaband district. The Taliban have not commented on the attack in Ghor.

The attack was confirmed by the deputy governor of Ghor, Habibullah Radmanish, who also blamed the insurgent group.

Meanwhile, in the eastern Khost province, unknown gunmen targeting a former warlord killed at least eight people in the province’s Ali Sher district, said Adel Haider, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

The police spokesman said that the target of the attack was among the dead, Abdul Wali Ekhlas, a candidate in last year’s parliamentary elections who didn’t win a seat.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Khost province.

Violence has spiked in recent weeks in Afghanistan with most of the attacks claimed by the local militant Islamic State (IS) group affiliate.

On Friday, a bomb explosion inside a mosque in the capital, Kabul, killed at least four people, including the prayer leader.

The Taliban strongly condemned the mosque attack.

The United States blamed the IS affiliate for a horrific attack last month on a maternity hospital in the capital that killed 24 people, including two infants and several new mothers.

The latest bloodshed comes as the Taliban and the Afghan government appear to move closer towards potential peace negotiations.

The much delayed talks aimed at ending the conflict are expected to begin once the two sides complete an ongoing prisoner swap.

The rare truce to mark the Eid holiday has been followed by an overall drop in violence across the country, though authorities have blamed the Taliban for a number of attacks in recent weeks.

“While the government has continued to advance the cause of peace, the Taliban continued their campaign of violence against the Afghan people during Eid and the weeks after that,” Javid Faisal, spokesman of the National Security Council tweeted on Saturday.

“In the last two weeks, they killed 89 civilians and wounded 150 across 29 provinces.”

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2020

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