Over 50 Taliban leaders killed in USA operation

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Afghan officials said a suicide bomber struck outside the ministry, allowing gunmen to pass through an outer gate where they traded fire with security forces, who eventually killed the attackers.

Meanwhile, also in Helmand, a district governor says a suicide auto bomber wounded six people, including three policemen, on Thursday morning. He could not say how many other casualties there were besides the assailants.

The tactics used in the attack "track with" the tactics that the Haqqani faction has used in the past, he said and added: "We at this time do not believe it was an ISIS attack".

Using more aggressive USA military action as an impetus for real peace talks is a delicate balancing act that Gen. Miller has mastered in his years working and fighting in Afghanistan, Mr. Sedney said.

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Islamic State has claimed many attacks in Kabul but Afghan security officials doubt the claims and say numerous attacks are much more likely to be the work of the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban which has proven expertise in mounting urban attacks. He said some Taliban figures and leaders have publicly expressed interest in reconciliation despite recent attacks on government facilities. His spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, said earlier that more than 50 were killed but that an exact count has not yet been established.

In the eastern Logar province, Taliban suicide bombers attacked a police station, killing at least three policemen. A suicide auto bomb was set off at the gates before three gunmen in suicide vests stormed the compound.

Twelve other people, including four police officers and eight civilians, were wounded in the attack, said provincial police chief Mohmmad Abdali. Among the wounded were two children, the media reported.

IS, which is trying to make inroads in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq propaganda service. It is unclear who carried out the attack, though the southern province is the Taliban's historic heartland. "The police easily, in 10 or 15 minutes, killed all three of them".

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Under surveillance by the Marines, the Taliban fighters returned to their Helmand stronghold, a center for poppy cultivation.

Violence has sharply increased in recent weeks since the Taliban, which leads the insurgency against the Afghan government and USA -led troops, announced its annual spring offensive.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban attacked a district headquarters in the northern Takhar province, killing five security forces, according to provincial police spokesman Khalil Asir.

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