The Taliban has killed 26 people in an attack on an army base in Afghanistan on the day it began peace talks with opposition leaders in Moscow.
The insurgent group, which had killed a further 21 people on Monday, has described talks held with the US in Qatar last month as a success, according to the Interfax news agency.
But US general Joseph Votel said discussions were still in the “very, very early” stages.
The Taliban stormed the army base on the outskirts of Kunduz city at around 2am local time on Tuesday, head of the provincial council Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi said.
Among those killed were at least 23 soldiers and three members of the local police force.
Another 21 people were killed, including 11 policemen, in two attacks on Monday.
One happened when militants stormed a checkpoint in Baghlani Markazi district in the country’s northeast, triggering a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, provincial council head Safder Mohsini said.
The Taliban also targeted a pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there including a woman, a local spokesman said.
The latest talks, at the President Hotel in Moscow, are set to last two days.
Taliban representatives will negotiate with former president Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders, but not the Afghan government.
The Taliban has refused to engage with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration, describing it as a US puppet.
But General Votel, who is head of the US military’s central command, told a Senate hearing: “We clearly recognise that they (the Afghan government) have to be a part of this solution and must be in the negotiation aspects of this – we can’t do that on their behalf.”
Last week, the US and the Taliban reached “agreements in principle” on a peace deal – igniting hopes of ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan.
(c) Sky News 2019: Taliban kills 26 in Afghanistan attack as peace talks begin in Moscow