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Taliban kill 18 Afghan soldiers in overnight clashes, officials say


KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban militants killed at least 18 Afghan soldiers in clashes that erupted overnight when troops were trying to capture a senior Taliban leader, government officials said on Wednesday.

The clashes started after several soldiers were airdropped into the Ab Kamari district of western Badghis province to conduct a night raid on Taliban hideouts and arrest a designate district governor of the hardline Islamist group.

Farid Akhizai, a provincial council member in Badghis, said the Taliban encircled the soldiers, killed 18 and captured 11. Ten were missing.

The district governor of Ab Kamari said a lack of coordination was to blame.

"The operation was conducted to raid a hideout used by several Taliban commanders, but the insurgents had evacuated the area two days before," said Khudad, who goes by one name.

The Taliban in a statement confirmed that they had received a tip-off about the raid. They said their fighters killed 39 Afghan soldiers and captured 16.

The Taliban continue to stage major attacks against Afghan forces while they are engaged in a dialogue with the United States to negotiate an end to the 18-year long war.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January that more than 45,000 members of the security forces had been killed by militants since he took office in September 2014.

(Reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat, Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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