Taliban Said to Kill 16 in Worst Attack Since Leader Namedby
30 hostages still held from about 200 originally abducted
Militants killed Afghans with government employee documents
Taliban gunmen killed at least 16 people said to have been carrying government employee documents and traveling to the north of the country, the deadliest single attack since the group named a new leader last week.
Insurgents dressed in military uniforms stopped a convoy of buses traveling in the Aliabad district of the northern province of Kunduz early Tuesday, Mahmood Danish, a spokesman for the Kunduz government, said by phone, confirming the casualty figures. The Taliban claimed the attack, though only killed six Afghan soldiers and policemen in civilian clothing who tried to escape, the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, said in a statement.
Initially taking about 200 hostages, 154 were freed and more than 30 people are still being held by the Taliban in an unknown location, Danish said. The three buses and a number of minibuses were heading from the capital, Kabul, to the northern regions of Takhar and Badakhshan, he said. Mujahed said the Taliban abducted 26 plainclothes soldiers and police who were traveling in civilian cars.
“They were identified as government policemen and soldiers by their fingerprints and based on accurate documents,” Mujahed said.
The war in Afghanistan killed or wounded a record 11,000 civilians last year, taking the total toll to 60,000 since the United Nations began compiling the data in 2009. The conflict against the Taliban, now in its 15th year, has cost the U.S. more than $700 billion and killed more than 2,300 American soldiers.
After naming a new leader last week, the Taliban have attacked several police bases in the volatile southern province of Helmand in the past few days. Both sides have suffered heavy casualties in an ongoing battle some of the region’s districts and the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, according to Ismatullah Dawlatzai, a senior police official.
The Taliban named Maulavi Haibatullah Akhundzada to succeed ex-leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on May 21 near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Akhundzada vowed to continue the insurgency and said peace talks would only take place when all foreign troops leave.
Kunduz is the most dangerous province in the north region, with the Taliban guerrillas there to targeting the government’s civilian and military employees. The Taliban briefly took over the province last year, marking its first major victory since they were toppled by U.S. forces in 2001.