Truck bombs: Taliban claim attack as spring offensive begins

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The Ministry of Defense in a statement said the offensive has been announced by the Quetta Shura, Taliban's leadership council, and that by making such an announcement, the group wants to give morale to its fighters after "facing many defeats".

Earlier in the day, a local security official said, as cited by Khaama Press that the Afghan security forces killed nine members of the Taliban movement in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar late on Friday after the militants tried to overrun a security checkpoint. During talks with United States, the removal of Taliban's leaders name from the UNSC black list was one of the Taliban major demands. The call for more fighting will not advance peace efforts.

For its part, the rebel group said its attack killed or injured scores of Afghan forces and eliminated a major security base in the area.

Peace talks with the Taliban kicked off past year, as US President Donald Trump vowed to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban announced their spring offensive, called Operation Al-Fatha, on Friday, declaring that their "Jihadi obligation has not ended yet".

The Afghan government mounted its own offensive, dubbed Khalid, in March.

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However, after repeated rounds of negotiations between U.S. and Taleban representatives over recent months, the new offensive underlined how far Afghanistan remains from peace more than 17 years after US-backed forces drove the Taleban from power in 2001.

The Presidential Palace, also known as ARG, in a statement on Saturday condemned the Taliban's announcement of the so-called spring offense and said it is an evident sign of the will of the group to continue the "illegitimate" war in Afghanistan. But they were "pushed back and defeated" by security forces, said the government in a statement. "The Afghan and world religious scholars have clearly said that the war in Afghanistan has no religious legitimacy and its continuance has no legitimate judgment".

"All sides must end unnecessary violence, and instead engage in intra-Afghan dialogue which leads to negotiations on a political settlement and a roadmap to end the war this year", he wrote in a tweet.

It is expected that the Taliban, politicians and representatives of the Afghan government will be in Doha from April. 19 to 21, in what would be the first meeting between representatives of the government and the insurgents since the U.S. and the Taliban began peace talks a year ago.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a "puppet" of the West, and the militants have insisted that government officials are attending only in a "personal capacity".

"The requested exemption is exclusively for travels required for participation in peace and reconciliation discussions", the UN Security Council said.

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