At least 26 militants were killed in military operations in Afghanistan over the past two days as Taliban insurgents attempted to overrun the strategically important Yamgan district in the Badakhshan province, said the government on Wednesday, 18 November.

The Afghanistan Police, backed by the army, killed over two dozen armed insurgents in the conflict-plagued country since Tuesday, Xinhua quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.

"Units of the police backed by the army have carried out a series of operations in several provinces over the past 24 hours. As a result, 26 insurgents were killed, 19 were injured and four others were detained," said the ministry in a statement.

In another development, a 15-member Taliban group renounced violence and surrendered to the government in the eastern Kunar province on Wednesday, said the provincial governor.

"Today (Wednesday), we warmly welcome our 15 brothers who denounced hostility and joined the peace and reconciliation process. The government will spare no effort to help them rejoin their families and provide them jobs," said Governor Wahidullah Kalemzai.

The surrendered group, which was active in Saokai district over the past couple of years under the command of Akhtar Mohammad, also handed over 15 weapons to the police.

Taliban militants who have intensified activities are yet to comment on the government's claims about killing militants in Kunar province.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, in a fresh attempt to consolidate their positions in the northern Badakhsan province, launched a massive offensive in the strategically important Yamgan district on Wednesday.

"The Taliban's attempts to gain ground and capture the Yamgan district on Wednesday morning triggered a gun-battle and both sides suffered have casualties," said provincial council head Abdullah Naji Nazari.

Nazari also warned that the district might collapse if the government failed to send reinforcement.

Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, a self-proclaimed Taliban spokesman, confirmed the clash in Yamgan district and capturing ground near the district headquarters, a claim denied by the provincial official as baseless.

Both the government and militants, according to Afghan observers, will do their best to gain more ground and consolidate their positions ahead of snowfall in the mountainous country.