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Islamic State attack kills 20 in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Islamic State suicide bomber killed 20 people in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a Taliban commander, and in southern Helmand province, a government commando unit freed 54 people from a Taliban-run jail, officials said.

In Kandahar province, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Arghistan district late on Monday night, killing nine policemen and wounding seven, according to Daud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

Zia Durrani, the provincial police spokesman, said 25 Taliban fighters were killed and 15 were wounded in the ensuing battle. Afghanistan has faced intense attacks by both the Taliban and the country’s Islamic State affiliate recently, even as Washington considers a Taliban demand for direct talks in hopes of jump-starting a negotiated end to the longest military engagement by US forces.

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A Taliban official in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an unofficial office, said the insurgents want direct talks and are ready to put troop withdrawal as well as any outstanding concerns the United States might have on the table.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Taliban official said delisting Taliban leaders from US and UN watch lists and recognizing their office in Doha, Qatar’s capital, would aid progress in talks, should they begin.

ASSOCIATED PRESS