Taliban killed 291 Afghan security personnel in past week: Gov't

‘Deadliest’ week in the country’s 19-year war, says top official even as the armed group rejects the figures.

The Taliban has killed at least 291 Afghan security personnel over the past week, a top government official said, accusing the armed group of unleashing a wave of violence ahead of potential peace talks.

The previous week was the “deadliest” in the country’s 19 years of conflict, Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council, said on Monday.

The Taliban group carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces during the past week, killing 291 security personnel and wounding 550 others, Faisal said on Twitter.

“Taliban’s commitment to reduce violence is meaningless, and their actions inconsistent with their rhetoric on peace,” he said.

The Taliban rejected the latest government figures.

“The enemy aims to hurt the peace process and intra-Afghan talks by releasing such false reports,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman in Afghanistan, told the AFP news agency.

“We did have some attacks last week, but they were mostly in defence.”

In a cabinet meeting on Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the violence, which he blamed on the Taliban.

The government sees the violence “as running against the spirit of commitment for peace”, Ghani said.

In an attack on Monday, gunmen shot dead two prosecutors and three other employees of the attorney general’s office.

The attack happened on the outskirts of capital Kabul, when gunmen opened fire on the car the attorney general and his team were in, the attorney general’s office and the interior ministry said.

It was unclear who the attackers were, and the Taliban denied involvement.

The incident drew condemnation from US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who led negotiations with the Taliban ahead of a deal signed in February between the US and the Taliban.

The deal set out a US withdrawal from Afghanistan in return for security assurances from the Taliban and outlined steps to be taken by the Afghan government before intra-Afghan talks.

Khalilzad said the legal team had been working on a prisoner exchange that is a requirement before the Kabul government and the Taliban can start peace talks.

“This attack underscores what we all know: Spoilers [both domestic and foreign] are trying to disrupt and delay” the peace process, Khalilzad said on Twitter.

“Both sides should not be deterred, and push forward to take the steps necessary to reach intra-Afghan negotiation.”

Violence had dropped across much of Afghanistan since the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire on May 24 to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

But officials have accused the armed group of stepping up attacks in recent weeks.

Ghani has promised to complete the Taliban prisoner release. The Afghan authorities have freed about 3,000 Taliban prisoners and a further release of 2,000 more is planned as stipulated in the deal with Washington.

The Taliban said it is ready for the peace talks but only after the release of the remaining fighters.

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