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Taliban Claims Car Bombing That Killed At Least 14 Afghan Troops

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Afghan security forces on patrol in Nangarhar Province, where the deadly attack occurred on January 30. (file photo)

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a car bombing in eastern Afghanistan that officials say killed at least 14 soldiers when it targeted a military base in Nangarhar.

Local councilor Ajmad Omar said four other troops were wounded in the attack on January 30, in the Shrizad district near the border with Pakistan.

The dpa news agency quoted a spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, claiming that the militant group carried out the attack and saying casualty figures were higher.

Both the Taliban -- who are engaged in mostly deadlocked peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar -- and Islamic State (IS) are active in the area.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Interior Ministry and a lawmaker are providing contradictory accounts of a deadly clash that occurred in the central Wardak Province a day earlier.

The ministry said police killed seven local militia members and wounded nine more in a skirmish in the Behsood district late on January 29. It also said 68 militia members were arrested for disrupting police efforts.

But a local Wardak lawmaker, Mahdi Rasikh, was quoted as saying that police had opened fire on a peaceful demonstration, killing 11 and injuring 20 more.

The continued violence comes with calls rising from Kabul for the United States to ramp up pressure on the Taliban and avoid rushing the withdrawal of more of its 2,500 or so troops from Afghanistan.

Afghan and Pakistani security sources reported on January 28 that a mine blast in Nangarhar Province killed Mangal Bagh, the leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e Islam.

In 2018, the United States placed a $3 million bounty on Bagh’s head over his alleged role in attacks on NATO convoys, drug trafficking, and other illegal activities.

On January 29, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the United States and NATO to "take a very strong stand on the conditions-based approach" to withdrawing their troops.

Ghani said members of the transatlantic alliance had told him they were "very much interested in continuing" NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

Ashraf also said the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden "is going to send a team to Kabul" to discuss ways to energize Afghan peace talks.

The Pentagon said this week that "the Taliban are not meeting their commitments" under an agreement reached nearly a year ago on the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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