Taliban Kill 20 Afghan Soldiers in Predawn Attack

Afghan President Hamid Karzai slammed Pakistan on Sunday for failing to "eliminate nests of terror" after the Taliban killed 20 soldiers and kidnapped seven in a daring raid on a border outpost.

The attack in the eastern Kunar province was the single deadliest strike on Afghan troops in recent months by the Taliban, and caused Karzai to cancel a planned two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

Afghanistan and Pakistan regularly accuse each other of supporting militant attacks in the other country, with the latest outburst coming days after Islamabad said 23 of its paramilitary soldiers were killed on Afghan soil.

Kunar provincial governor Shujah-Ul Mulk Jalala told AFP 20 were killed and seven kidnapped in the raid in the Ghaziabad district, with the Taliban later claiming credit in a statement.

Reinforcements were sent to the area to hunt for the attackers and release the kidnapped troops, the defense ministry said in a statement.

The rebels attacked the reinforcing troops with a suicide bombing and gun attack but caused no casualties, the ministry added.

In a statement issued by his office, Karzai demanded action from Pakistan.

"President Karzai once again called on Pakistan government that terrorism is a serious threat against both countries and demanded Pakistan to seriously and strongly cooperate with the government of Afghanistan, and take serious action in eliminating terror nests," it said.

Karzai also canceled a trip to Sri Lanka where he had been due to hold talks with his counterpart Mahinda Rajapakse in his first visit to the country since 2008.

"Please note that the visit of the President of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka has been canceled," the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said.

Jalala, the governor said "some" of the soldiers in the post were thought to have aided the attackers, though this could not be verified by an independent source and the Taliban did not mention insider help in their statement.

"The Mujahideen overran a key enemy outpost in an assault last night in Ghaziabad," the statement sent by text message to reporters said, terming the Afghan troops "hirelings".

Afghanistan is gripped by a deadly insurgency being waged by remnants of the Taliban since the United States and its NATO allies ousted them from power in 2001.

The rebels' campaign has gathered pace and become more deadly, using a combination of suicide bombings as well as attacks involving multiple individuals storming targets in the middle of big cities and fighting on until they are killed.

The Western-funded Kabul government is desperately trying to strike a peace deal with the Taliban before the withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of this year.

So far, the Taliban have turned down all peace offers by Karzai's administration.

Afghanistan is also going to the polls on April 5 to select a successor to Karzai, as some 55,000 U.S.-led combat troops pull out of the country after 13 years of battling the fierce Taliban insurgency.

Between 8,000-12,000 U.S. soldiers may be deployed on a training and counter-terrorism mission from 2015 if a long-delayed deal is signed with the Afghan government.

Source: Agence France Presse

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