A suicide bomber of the militant Islamic State group killed 20 people in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a Tali­ban commander, while in southern Helmand province, a government commando unit freed 54 people from a Taliban-run jail, officials said.

In southern 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 in Arghistan, a violate districts close to the Pakistani border.

Afghanistan has faced intense attacks by both the Taliban and the country’s IS affiliate recently, even as Washington considers a Taliban demand for direct talks in hopes of jump-starting a negotiated end to what is now the longest military engagement by US forces.

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