Afghan forces killed in first 'Taliban attack' since ceasefire end: officials

Kabul (AFP) –


Seven members of the Afghan security forces were killed Thursday in an attack officials blamed on the Taliban, the first deadly assault since a three-day ceasefire ended.

The militants attacked a checkpoint in Parwan, north of the capital, said Waheeda Shahkar, spokeswoman to the provincial governor.

"The Taliban have also suffered casualties," Shahkar added.

District police chief Hussain Shah said Taliban fighters set fire to the checkpoint, killing five security force personnel. Two more were shot dead.

The Taliban have not commented.

It is the first attack that Afghan officials have blamed on the Taliban since the ceasefire -- held over the Eid al-Fitr festival -- ended on Tuesday night.

According to Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, civilian casualties fell by 80 percent during the temporary truce.

A drop in violence has largely held since it ended on Tuesday night, although Afghan security forces carried out air strikes in the south on Wednesday that killed 18 "militants," police said.

The surprise truce offer from the Taliban and the lull in fighting has raised hopes that stalled peace negotiations between the insurgents and the Afghan government could begin soon.

Afghan authorities have responded to the ceasefire by releasing some 1,000 insurgent prisoners this week, and plan to further free an equal number of inmates in the coming days.

The Taliban have also said they plan to free a group of government prisoners.

The exchange is part of a US-Taliban deal signed in February, which excluded the Afghan government, that stipulates Kabul would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.

Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates before the ceasefire, while the insurgents had released about 300 government captives.