Taliban militants have taken around 15 Afghan policemen hostage during an assault on a remote northern district, officials said, adding that security forces flushed out the insurgents from the volatile area on Saturday.
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents captured Yamgan district in Badakshan province this week, killing and abducting several policemen as part of their annual spring offensive ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops this year. "Hundreds of Taliban militants captured Yamgan few days ago, and they were driven out of the district by Afghan security forces. Eight policemen were killed, seven others were wounded," said Badakhshan provincial police chief Fazludeen Ayar.
"Yamgan district is now under Afghan security forces control," Ayar told AFP, confirming that several Afghan policemen were in custody of the Taliban.
Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed Afghan security forces had recaptured Yamgan district. "Afghan security forces have been deployed in the district," Danish said. "Around 15 policemen were taken hostage and serious cleanup operations are still underway."
Badakhshan provincial authorities said at least seven civilians were also killed during operation.
Badakhshan is a poor, northeastern province bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
On May 8, the Taliban announced the start of their annual "spring offensive", vowing a final summer of bloody attacks on foreign forces before the 13 year NATO combat mission ends. Afghanistan's fighting season traditionally begins in April or May as snow recedes from the mountains, and the Taliban mark the occasion with an annual declaration to attack foreign forces and unseat the Kabul government.
Afghanistan is in the middle of elections to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.
About 51,000 US-led NATO troops still deployed in Afghanistan are set to withdraw by December, ending a long and costly battle against the Taliban, who launched a fierce insurgency after being ousted from power. A small number of US troops may stay on from next year on a training and counter-terrorism mission, if a long-delayed deal is struck between Kabul and Washington.