KABUL — A string of Taliban attacks on Afghan security units killed more than 70 people, officials said Tuesday, in another show of force by the militants amid a renewed effort seeking possible peace talks.
The attacks, which began late Monday and ranked among the deadliest of the year, underscored the Taliban’s resilience and ability to strike heavily protected sites such as military bases.
They also raised questions about any potential Taliban commitment to open dialogue with the Afghan government and its allies after 16 years of conflict.
In Oman, U.S. officials met with delegations from China, Pakistan and Afghanistan to try to revive peace talks with the Taliban. Previous attempts to open talks with the organization have stalled, most recently last year after Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
[A ‘win’ in Afghanistan includes peace talks with the Taliban, say U.S. officials in Kabul]
On Tuesday, Taliban forces stormed a police compound south of Kabul, killing 41 people, including a local police chief, in a gun battle that lasted hours, officials said.
The commando-style raid in Gardez in Paktia province, about 80 miles from Kabul, also injured about 100 people when two car bombs exploded outside the compound, which serves as a command center for local police and a main training site for police recruits.
Taliban fighters then stormed the site, taking over towers and firing indiscriminately, causing casualties among police and civilians who happened to be there on government business, officials said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman, Najib Danesh, said local police chief Toryalai Abadani was among those killed.
Earlier, a similar attack in neighboring Ghazni province killed 25 government security officers and five civilians. A suicide bomber drove a vehicle into a government compound, after which gunmen entered the site.
At least 48 people were also wounded, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, a deputy interior minister, told reporters.
Murad said a total of 74 people were killed in the spate of Taliban violence that included smaller attacks.
Pakistan — which recently won some favor from the Trump administration after the rescue of American Caitlan Coleman and her family, held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network for five years — quickly condemned the attack in Gardez.
Officials in Pakistan are seeking to ease strained relations with Afghanistan, partly in hopes of gaining a better seat in discussions over economic investments in the region that include a stronger U.S. presence, increased trade with India and a nearly $1 trillion Chinese “Silk Road” initiative that, using land and sea routes, would connect China’s commercial markets to Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
“Pakistan reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations and reaffirms its commitment for continued efforts and cooperation for eliminating this menace,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
[The Taliban is sowing terror in remote, new areas of Afghanistan]
The attacks followed several attempted suicide bombings in Kabul during recent weeks.
The Afghan intelligence agency said Tuesday that it recently thwarted a Taliban plot to attack several spots in the city, including military facilities, army convoys and crowded areas.
The agency arrested two men Monday who were traveling in a car full of explosives. Over the weekend, a driver of a truck carrying three tons of explosives was also arrested.
Taliban fighters and other militants, including Islamic State extremists, have struck bases used by security forces in the past.
In April, Taliban insurgents dressed in army uniforms surged into an army facility in the northern Balkh province, killing dozens of soldiers.
Also in Paktia province, the United States carried out a drone strike Monday, killing 20 “extremists” in the Jaji Maidan district, a NATO spokesman said Tuesday.
Shaiq Hussein in Islamabad contributed to this report.
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