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KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents abducted dozens of Afghans from buses in northern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said.

About 200 passengers were taken from their vehicles at checkpoints the insurgents set up early Tuesday morning on a highway in the Aliabad district of Kunduz province, outside the provincial capital, said Hayatullah Fakiryar, the district governor.

Most were later released, he said, but about 45 were taken hostage. A district official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the incident said at least 10 had been killed.

The travelers were headed from Kabul to northeast Takhar and Badakhshan provinces, he said. Most of the hostages were believed to be civilians, he said, though some may be government employees.

Last fall, the Taliban briefly took control of Kunduz city, Afghanistan’s fifth-largest metropolitan center. It was the first major urban center to fall under Taliban control since 2001.

Afghan forces aided by U.S. Special Forces and air support retook the city after days of heavy fighting. Government forces have so far repelled insurgent attempts to overrun the city again since the launch of the Taliban spring offensive in April.

Elsewhere, in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, fighting has intensified.

In recent days, Taliban have captured at least 10 police checkpoints in Helmand in the first major offensive launched by the insurgent group since the killing of their supreme leader in a U.S. airstrike earlier in May.

Helmand, a center for the lucrative Taliban opium poppy harvest, was the site of some of the most intense fighting in the 15-year war.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report

garland.chad@stripes.comTwitter: @chadgarland

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Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.
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