At least 25 pro-government militias were killed in a Taliban attack in northern Afghanistan Saturday, officials said, as the United States was due to start a new round of talks with the militants in Qatar.
The attack happened in Nahrin district of northern Baghlan province before dawn when the militia members attempted to rescue a group of soldiers surrounded by Taliban militants, Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman, said.
"As they were going to help the soldiers, they got ambushed. Unfortunately, 25 members... were killed in the attack," he said.
District governor Fazaluddin Muradi confirmed the toll, adding that the attack lasted nearly six hours.
The Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility for the attack.
Local militias often work with overstretched security forces in Afghanistan. The violence in Baghlan came as the US and the Taliban officials were due to start a new round of talks in Qatar to end the 18-year-long US presence in Afghanistan.
The talks, in its seventh round, have centred on four issues: counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent ceasefire.
US officials have previously said they are hoping for a deal before the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, which have already been delayed twice and are now set for September.
On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unannounced visit to Kabul and hoped for a peace deal with the Taliban "before September 1".
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