Gunmen killed a provincial deputy governor and three others in an ambush in Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said, as the Taliban carried out a spate of attacks across the country after launching their spring offensive.
Afghanistan’s largest militant group announced the start of their new operation dubbed Al Khandaq on Wednesday, vowing to target U.S. forces and their “internal supporters.”
Qamaruddin Shekib, deputy governor for the restive Logar province near Kabul, his two bodyguards and another man were attacked as they drove towards the Afghan capital, provincial police spokesman Shapoor Ahmadzai told AFP. The spokesman for the Logar governor and the chief of the provincial appeal court were also wounded in the attack that was claimed by the Taliban.
“Unknown armed men opened fire on their convoy,” Hasibullah Stanikzai, head of the Logar provincial council, told AFP, confirming the deputy governor had died and several other people had been killed or wounded.
In a separate incident also claimed by the Taliban in the northern province of Kunduz, militants launched a pre-dawn raid on two military checkpoints in Dashte Archi district. As many as 13 security forces were killed and five wounded, the Kunduz governor’s spokesman Nematullah Timori told AFP.
But Ghulam Hazrat Karimi, spokesman for the 20th Afghan National Army division in Kunduz, said eight soldiers had been killed or wounded.
On Wednesday, gunmen launched a rare attack on a Kabul police checkpoint, wounding two officers, police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said on Twitter.
The Taliban claimed that assault too, along with an explosion near another police post in the heart of Kabul on Wednesday night that wounded one officer. The group also took responsibility for a series of attacks against security forces in the northern province of Baghlan.
Separately, gunmen shot dead an Afghan journalist in the southern city of Kandahar on Wednesday.
The Taliban have been under pressure to accept Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s February offer of peace talks, but Wednesday’s statement made no mention of the proposal. Al Khandaq will mainly focus on “crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters,” the Taliban said.
Western and Afghan experts said the Taliban announcement was an apparent rejection of Ghani’s offer and predicted more intense fighting in the drawn-out war.