A group of Taliban fighters has carried out an attack in Afghanistan’s northeastern Panjshir Province for the first time in the past 19 years, officials confirmed on September 8.
Panjshir was the home of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban resistance leader, and is considered one of the two safest provinces in the country.
Massoud was assassinated at the instigation of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001, just two days before the attacks against the United States.
As Massoud’s supporters gathered in the capital, Kabul, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of his death, the Taliban attacked Panjshir Province's Abshar district on the morning of September 8, a local politician in the province said.
Local officials told dpa the militants might have come from neighboring Nuristan or Laghman provinces.
The insurgents attempted to attack the district headquarters but faced resistance from locals, the provincial police spokesman said.
Twenty villagers were taken hostage by the Taliban but were released later, according to police.
More than a dozen Taliban militants were besieged by local residents and government forces, compelling the Taliban to surrender, police said.
In a statement, the Taliban claimed to have captured checkpoints and taken seven government forces hostage during the fighting.
Of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, the Taliban controls or contests parts of 32, including the capital, Kabul. They do not control any part of Bamyan and Panjshir provinces.
The clashes come as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are set to hold peace talks in the Qatari city of Doha soon, after the two sides nearly completed a prisoner exchange brokered under a peace agreement between the United States and Taliban in February.
The beginning of the peace talks would be historic, as the Taliban for the past 19 years have repeatedly refused any talks with the Afghan government, calling it a Western "puppet."