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Afghan forces claim killing senior Taliban commander

KABUL, Afghanistan 

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry on Friday claimed to have killed a top Taliban commander along with his eight companions in the country’s north.

In a statement, the ministry said Maulvi Sardar Mohammad, member of the Taliban’s “Military Commission” was killed with his companions in an airstrike in the Chamtal district of the Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan.

According to the statement, a huge cache of arms and ammunition were also destroyed in the airstrike.

The Taliban rejected the claim, calling it a “propaganda by the enemy.”

In a Twitter post, Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, said six Afghan service members were killed by the Taliban in the Khas Balkh district on Friday.

This came a day after the U.S. announced negotiating a proposal with the Taliban on “reduction of violence” in Afghanistan.

Following a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: “Our approach is this: The best, if not only, solution forward is a political agreement.”

“For the United States, the key thing will be continued support to our Afghan partners, and it will need to be a conditions-based approach to all of this,” a Pentagon statement quoted him as saying.

Earlier this week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed “notable progress” made in the ongoing peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

“Our primary objective is to end the senseless bloodshed,” the Afghan president had said on Twitter.

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