Taliban militants have kidnapped about 60 civilians, including women and children, in central Afghanistan over the past week, amid efforts made to get peace talks started in the country.
Local officials said Sunday that the Taliban took the hostages in the central province of Daikundi after a woman escaped a Taliban-controlled village in a neighboring province.
Mohammad Ali Uruzgani, the provincial deputy governor said that more than half were still being held. Some 26 had been released and tribal elders were mediating to free the remaining civilians, he added
A Taliban spokesman denied the kidnapping.
Underscoring the tension, Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the Afghanistan national security council said the Taliban had killed more than 40 civilians around the country in the past week.
“The Taliban have failed to deliver on promises of reducing violence against the Afghan people and working for peace,” he said on Twitter.
The United Nations has recently warned of an alarming rise in violence against civilians and a “striking deterioration” in upholding international humanitarian law in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the UN mission in Afghanistan released a report raising concerns about 15 attacks on health workers and health care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The surging violence comes despite a deal between the Taliban and the United States. Official data shows Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since the militant group signed the deal with the United States in February.
Under the agreement, the US will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, and the Taliban will refrain from attacking the US-led international occupation forces. The militants, however, have made no pledge to avoid attacking Afghan forces and civilians.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. While the invasion ended the Taliban’s rule in the country, it failed to eliminate the group.