Taliban denies reports of ceasefire offer for prisoner release

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Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Clashes between Afghan security forces and the Taliban have intensified since US troops started withdrawing

Taliban and Afghan government officials have denied reports the insurgents made a new ceasefire offer in return for the release of 7,000 prisoners.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, said the group had proposed a reduction in violence some months ago but that there was "nothing new on the table".

Nader Nadery, a government negotiator, said his description of an older offer had been misquoted.

Clashes between the two sides have intensified as the Taliban advances.

The group has moved swiftly in the wake of the US withdrawal from the country, retaking territory in rural areas from beleaguered Afghan forces.

The Taliban claimed recently that their fighters had retaken 85% of the country - a figure disputed by the government and impossible to verify independently.

Other estimates say the Taliban controls somewhere between a third and half of Afghanistan's 400 districts. On Thursday, Afghan forces said they had recaptured a key border crossing with Pakistan that had been taken by the Taliban. The insurgents denied having lost control of the post.

Media caption,
Fleeing bombs and bullets in Afghanistan's Kunduz province

Reports on Thursday by the BBC and other outlets said the Taliban had made a new three-month ceasefire offer in return for the prisoner release, but Mr Nadery later told the BBC there was "no official proposal yet and it remains a rumour".

Mr Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, said the group had proposed a reduction in violence four months ago, under which they would not take centres of districts and provinces, but "it was not accepted by the Kabul Administration". "Now, there is nothing new on the table," he said.

Last year, 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released and it is believed that many of them returned to the battlefield, worsening violence in the country.

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