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US air strike kills five Taliban fighters: official


Kabul: A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan said that in support of the Afghan security forces, the US launched an air strike on Sunday night, killing five Taliban fighters.

Violence has escalated in recent weeks with clashes taking place between the insurgents and government troops across the country, while negotiators from both sides have held talks in Qatar for a peace deal that could allow Washington to withdraw its remaining forces and end the United States  longest war. Col. Sonny Leggett, the U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, said the air strike in Wardak province was conducted to defend Afghan government troops and targeted Taliban fighters, killing five.

He said the action was in accordance with terms of the United States withdrawal agreement struck with the Taliban in February.

“We reject the allegations of violating the agreement and of killing innocent Afghans,” Leggett said, without elaborating.

When asked for comment, a Taliban spokesman said that there had been no fighting when the strike took place, and it broke the terms of agreement.

“This attack is a violation of the agreement and we condemn it,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Earlier this month, the Taliban accused the United States of violating the agreement after airstrikes in southern Helmand Province. In Helmand Province, government forces are eagerly trying to repel hundreds of insurgents who are trying to seize control of the provincial capital Lascarga.

Diplomats and officials say that if Qatar’s negotiations succeed, increasing violence is undermining the necessary trust.

The U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said earlier this month that he had met with Taliban representatives and agreed to renew the Taliban agreement to reduce violence.

So far, the Taliban have rejected repeated calls for a ceasefire by foreign powers and the Afghan government.

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