At least 15 insurgents were killed in Afghan air and ground forces operation in northern Baghlan province on Monday night, said local officials on Tuesday.
The operation was launched on the Pul-e-Khumri – Samangan highway after the insurgents attacked and blocked the highway to traffic for several hours, said Ahmad Jawid Basharat, a spokesman for Baghlan's police chief.
“A combination of army, National Directorate of Security (NDS), police and police special forces have launched an operation in the highway in which 15 insurgents--including their group leaders--were killed,” Basharat said.
Qari Juma Gul, a key Taliban leader is also among the dead, Basharat said, adding that the forces have pushed back the insurgents from the highway and reopened to the road to traffic.
The Taliban have not yet commented over the attack.
On Monday, sources said the clashes were still ongoing in the Chashma-e-Shir area and on the outskirts of Pul-e-Khumri city, the center of Baghlan, leaving the highway closed to traffic.
The clashes started after the Taliban installed a checkpoint on Baghlan-Balkh highway in Chashma-e-Shir area and started “extorting funds from truck drivers," say sources.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the highway, according to eyewitnesses and passengers.
The commander of a highway unit, Abdul Ghani Mahmoudi, said the Taliban closed the highway after launching an attack on it.
He said that Taliban fighters had hidden in civilians’ homes and there was a need for reinforcement troops to push the militants back from the highway.