Afghan Conflict: Hostages Released After Taliban Sar-e Pul Attack

Taliban and Islamic State fighters allegedly killed more than 50 civilians including women and children in Afghanistan's Sar-e Pul province

After days of waiting for additional troops to arrive, security forces would soon begin a clearance operation to retake the village, he said.

Last weekend, the Afghan government lost the village of Mirza Olang to fighters connected to a Taliban commander. But any sign of the two groups joining forces would alarm Western governments concerned that as insecurity rises in Afghanistan, the country could once again become a base for militant groups aiming to strike foreign targets.

The Taliban has rejected that allegation, saying a group under one of its commanders carried out the attack.

According to the officials, the explosives of the two suicide bombers went off after they were shot dead but no casualties were incurred to the security forces and the ordinary civilians. The majority of those killed were Shiites.

Spokesmen from both the central and provincial governments said they believed the insurgents were holding a number of residents of Mirzawalang village hostage.

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Verifying information from poor, mountainous areas of Afghanistan made inaccessible by fighting and with patchy communications is hard, and AFP was not able to access the village.

But Governor Mohammad Zaher Wahdat told Afghan channel Tolo News they had not been able to recover the bodies. "They are so shocked they can t even speak to tell us about anymore other hostages", he added.

Amani, the provincial spokesman, said that dozens of Taliban and IS group fighters, under the command of a local Taliban commander who he claimed pledged allegiance to IS, launched a coordinated attack on the area on August 3. More than 1,662 civilians were killed in the half of the year, according to United Nations figures.

The insurgents defeated the Afghan Local Police after a 48-hour battle before massacring civilians, Amani said.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban has a much bigger presence, while ISIS was confirmed to be in the country in 2015. 50 civilians, mostly Shi'ite, were killed in the course of the offensive, and 30 homes were burnt to the ground.

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