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Taliban Kills 18 Afghan Soldiers, Beheading Some Of Them


Afghan authorities say Taliban militants killed at least 18 soldiers and beheaded some of them in attacks in the country's northeast in recent days.

The Defense Ministry said in an April 13 statement that at least 33 soldiers "have been martyred, wounded, [or] went missing" during fighting in Badakhshan Province.

Most of the fighting occurred on April 10, when around 200 Taliban militants launched attacks on several army posts in the Jurm district.

The ministry said it had not offered details earlier because it was investigating the attacks.

Ahmad Nawid Froutan, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that at least 18 soldiers were killed and that the bodies of eight of them had been beheaded.

Froutan said security forces took back Jurm but said they need reinforcements from Kabul.

"The situation is under control right now, but Taliban who fled to nearby mountains sporadically open fire on our security forces," he said.

He said 19 militants were killed, 11 of them Afghan Taliban and eight classified as unidentified foreign militants.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had killed 49 soldiers and wounded 42.

The Taliban, however, often exaggerate its claims.

The Defense Ministry said unspecified "neglect" by an army officer had enabled the attack to take place.

It said the militants looted military equipment and set fire to vehicles they could not take.

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets as the spring fighting season begins.

Fighting intensifies in spring as snow that makes mountainous areas inaccessible melts, allowing more movement of fighters and weapons.

Afghanistan is bracing for what is expected to be a bloody summer push by the Taliban, set to be the first fighting season in which Afghan security forces will battle militants without full NATO support.

NATO's combat mission formally ended in December but a small 9,800-strong American force has stayed on to train and advise Afghan security forces.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa
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