Afghan forces have rescued nearly 150 people, including women and children, hours after the Taliban ambushed a convoy of buses and abducted them.
The militants escaped with 21 captives following the battle in Kunduz province.
Tribal elders are trying to negotiate the remaining hostages’ release.
Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the governor in the northern province, said the Taliban have demanded the national identifications of the captives to determine their fate.
The identities of the 21 people held have not been made public, but Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council, said the insurgents likely targeted the three buses to try to abduct civil servants or members of the security forces.
The Taliban have been at war with the US-backed Afghan government for nearly 17 years, and have stepped up attacks in recent years, seizing rural districts and carrying out major assaults against security forces and government compounds on an almost daily basis.
In the latest attack, the Taliban stopped the buses in the Khan Abad district and ordered the passengers to come with them, according to Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the interior ministry.
Afghan forces responded quickly and were able to free 149 people and kill at least seven Taliban fighters, he said.
The passengers were all from Takhar and Badakhshan provinces in the north and were on their way to Kabul for this week’s Eid al-Adha holiday, according to Abdul Rahman Aqtash, police chief in Takhar province.
The ambush came a day after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani proposed a holiday ceasefire, saying it would be conditional on the Taliban halting attacks. He suggested extending the truce all the way to November 20, when Muslims will celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.