At least 18 Afghan security personnel have been killed in two attacks by Taliban militants on checkpoints in northern Afghanistan, officials say.
Maroof Azar, spokesman for the governor of Jawezjan, told AFP that Taliban stormed a checkpoint in the northern province in the early hours of Wednesday, killing 12 Afghan security force members.
According to the spokesman, the militants also captured four security personnel during the pre-dawn raid, while five militants were killed in the fighting.
The ministry of defense confirmed the raid and said six of its soldiers were among those killed.
But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gave a higher toll.
The militants also conducted another raid on an army outpost in the northern province of Kunduz.
Aminullah Iddin, a member of the provincial council, said six soldiers were killed in the fighting that lasted about five hours.
Army spokesman Hadi Jamal said four Taliban militants were also killed in the fighting.
The militant group has not commented on that assault.
The latest attacks come as the government and Taliban agreed to hold their first high-level meeting in a long-awaited peace process in Qatar.
No date has been announced for the meeting, but it is expected to take place once the two sides complete an ongoing prisoner exchange.
The exchange of prisoners kicked off under a deal between the Taliban and the United States, which was signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on February 29.
Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on international forces in return for the US military’s phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and the prisoner exchange with the government in Kabul.
The Afghan government, which was not a signatory to the accord, was required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants, for their part, were obliged to free 1,000 government captives.
Kabul has already released 3,000 prisoners under the agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban.