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Taliban captures 58 Afghan security forces, defense ministry says

Taliban insurgents turn themselves in to Afghan forces, 2010. (Resolute Support Media/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry says Taliban militants have captured 58 soldiers after days of fighting during which dozens of troops briefly chased into neighboring Turkmenistan in the latest blow to Kabul’s beleaguered security forces.

The troops came under attack by militants in Bala Marghab district of Baghdis Province, which shares a border with Turkmenistan, almost two weeks ago.

The ministry statement was issued after reports of days of intense fighting in Bala Marghab.

“Unfortunately, 58 BSS [border security soldiers] are captured by the enemies,” a Defense Ministry tweet said on March 18, adding “Search Ops will continue until we release them.”

The ministry also said that an identical number of border troops — 58 — had “returned home from Turkmenistan.”

Jamshid Shahabi, the Badghis provincial governor’s spokesman, said earlier this week that that some security forces had “tactically retreated” across the border into Turkmenistan.

The Taliban on March 17 claimed it had captured 72 security forces in the district.

The captures come days after the latest round of talks between the United States and the Taliban ended in Doha, amid U.S. efforts to find a way out of the nearly 18-year war.

The government in Kabul has complained of being left out of the negotiations.