Afghan officials say at least five Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed a base in northern Afghanistan, despite expectations for a "reduction in violence" before a U.S.-Taliban deal.
The attack occurred in the Shora Khak district of Kunduz Province on February 16, days after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said an agreement with the Taliban was in place for a "conditions-based" weeklong reduction in violence.
"Unfortunately, five army soldiers were martyred and three wounded," the Afghan Defense Ministry said on February 17. There were also casualties among the Taliban, the ministry said.
Enhamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for Kunduz police, said the fighting lasted several hours and both sides suffered casualties.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that the militants killed 19 security forces in the attack and destroyed four armored personnel carriers, seizing a large amount of weapons and other military equipment.
Separately, Afghanistan's Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah told a meeting of ministers on February 17 that the Taliban has agreed to a seven-day reduction of violence ahead of a peace deal with the United States that was "finalized" and may be signed as soon as February 29.
It was not immediately clear when the reduction in violence was scheduled to begin.
A Taliban spokesman based in Doha, the capital of Qatar, said an agreement between the the militants and the United States will be signed by the end of the month.
"According to the agreement, all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan," Suhail Shaheen, told the DPA German news via the WhatsApp messaging service. "We will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan's land [to launch attacks] against another country."
Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners are to be released following the signing of the agreement and before the beginning of intra-Afghan negotiations, Shaheen added.
There was no immediate confirmation from the United States.
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