Kabul, Sep 8 (efe-epa).- The Taliban on Tuesday attacked the northern Afghan province of Panjshir, one of the safest in the country and a symbol of resistance against the rebels, even as intra-Afghan negotiations are expected to kick off within the next few days.
Provincial governor’s spokesperson Mansour Unabi told EFE that the attack began on Tuesday morning in the Abshar district, although “fortunately after efforts by the security forces and local people, the enemy ran away and sustained heavy casualties.”.
He added that the counter-offensive was still on and denied any casualties or hostage situation as a result of the attack.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the attack in a tweet, saying the insurgents had overrun “all enemy checkpoints” in the Ghulghulah area in the Abshar district.
The rebels claimed that “multiple gunmen were killed/wounded” in the operation and seven had been detained, while acknowledging that one of their fighters had also been injured.
The Taliban attack carried a symbolic value due to the province and day chosen for the attack, amid an atmosphere of hope in the country ahead of imminent peace negotiations.
Panjshir was seen as the stronghold of powerful guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led the resistance against the Taliban and has been hailed as a hero by the government. The state is also close to the national capital and one of the safest in the conflict-ridden country.
Afghanistan on Tuesday was celebrating the 19th death anniversary of the “Lion of Panjshir,” as Massoud is sometimes called,” who was killed by two Arab men disguised as journalists by detonating explosives hidden inside a fake camera. The assassination was linked to the Al Qaeda at the time.
Government officials and political leaders on Tuesday attended an event in Massoud’s honor in Kabul, in which the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Abdullah Abdullah, adopted a conciliatory tone towards the Taliban.
“The solution for differences in the country is not war and conflict, that’s why we want to close the page of enmity with the Taliban,” said Abdullah, who had fought in the ranks of Massoud’s army, according to a statement from his office.
“It is possible that we may hold different views with each other and on many issues these differences reach sensitive points, but having different views does not mean enmity.”
Although the intra-Afghan peace negotiations seem set to kick off soon, with both sides ready to hold talks in Qatar, the Taliban insisted on Tuesday that the process to release its fighters was yet to be completed by the government.
The government had last week released most of the remaining Taliban prisoners out of a list of 5,000 insurgents agreed upon in an peace deal between the United States and Taliban in Doha in February, however a small group of rebels continue to be in government custody due to diplomatic pressure by Kabul’s allies.
The Taliban have refused to accept the completion of the process, which they have highlighted as a fundamental condition of joining talks. EFE-EPA