The Taliban said on Sunday it had launched a new countrywide operation against Afghan and international forces as the group released three abducted Afghan aid workers.
The operation, which is dubbed "Kamin" or "Ambush", began on Sunday "based on the decision by the Taliban jehadi high council", Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi said in a statement posted on their website.
"During the operation, we will use all types of weapons and attacks," Ahmadi said, adding that the operation would include face-to-face fighting and guerrilla attacks.
The announcement comes amid a sharp surge in violence by Taliban militants in recent weeks after a short reduction of militancy during the winter.
Nearly 1,800 people, mostly insurgents, have been killed this year.
Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed Sunday to have released three Afghan aid workers, who had been kidnapped along with two French nationals nearly two months ago, without any ransom or prisoner exchange.
Taliban militants had kidnapped the three Afghans along with two French aid workers with Terre d'Enfance, an agency helping children, in Nimroz province, on April 2 and demanded the French government withdraw its approximately 1,000 troops conducting peacekeeping operations under NATO command.
The militants later released the French nationals, a man and a woman, in a bid to encourage the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw its troops from the country.
"Hazrat, Mohammad Hashim and Gholum Rasoul were released last night in Nimroz province after repeated demands by our oppressed people," Ahmadi said in a statement posted on their website.
Ahmadi said that the trio was released without any exchange.
In March, the Taliban released Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo in a controversial deal after the Afghan government released five Taliban members.
But the rebels executed Mastrogiacomo's Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, and his driver, Sayed Agha. The deal prompted harsh criticism from within Afghanistan and from the international community.
Elsewhere, five children were killed and two wounded when the landmine they were playing with detonated in Andar district of the southern Ghazni province Saturday afternoon, the provincial security chief of police Haji Mohammad Zaman said.
"The mine was freshly planted by Taliban militants on the road in Lagharo village of the district, and the children took it out of the ground and were playing with when it exploded," Zaman said.
In the same district, Afghan and coalition forces detained a Taliban leader in Myanjo village Saturday night, the US military said in statement.
The Taliban leader had been responsible for placing roadside bombs and "recruiting suicide bombers to kill and terrorize countless Afghan civilians in the Andar District", the statement said.
The combined forces also detained an Al Qaeda cell leader, known only as Mujahid, in the southeastern province of Khost Friday night, the statement said.
"The enemy commander, known only by his first name, has been responsible for multiple improvised explosive device and suicide bomber attacks in Khost province," the statement said.
"He has also been involved in weapons smuggling and supplying logistics to other Al Qaeda fighters."
A NATO soldier was killed and three were wounded following a road traffic accident in western Afghanistan, the alliance said in statement.
It did not identify the soldiers, nor did it give the exact location of the accident.