Kabul, Aug 3 (EFE).- The Afghan army Tuesday urged citizens in the besieged capital of the southern Helmand province to evacuate ahead of a major operation against the Taliban after 40 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured amid intense fighting in Lashkargah.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said civilians were “bearing the brunt” as fighting entered Afghanistan cities, amid continuing ground assault by Taliban fighters and the Afghan army trying to repel them.
“Deepening concern for Afghan civilians in Lashkagah as fighting worsens. Latest reports show 118 civilians injured, 40 killed within last 24 hours,” the Unama tweeted.
It urged an immediate end to fighting in urban areas, referring to Lashkargah, southern Kandahar, and western Herat provinces, where the Taliban have captured almost all districts.
The UN mission said the Taliban ground offensive and Afghan army airstrikes were “causing most harm.”
The mission said it was concerned about indiscriminate shooting and damage to and occupation of health facilities and civilian homes by the combatants.
Taliban fighters have captured most of the Lashkargah neighborhoods as fighting rages over the control of government buildings, including the provincial governor’s house.
The army sounded an alert and asked citizens to evacuate before a major operation against Taliban fighters.
Army spokesperson Qader Bahadarzoy told EFE that Gen. Sami Sadat, who is leading the battle against the Taliban in Helmand, called on Lashkargah citizens to evacuate their houses for a few days.
“Taliban (fighters) are hiding in civilian houses and use civilians as human shields. We cannot carry out our operation because (civilians) will be harmed,” Bahadarzoy said.
UN representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons met with Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar to express “deep concern on the increasing number of Afghan civilians being killed, injured and displaced.”
The UN sounded an alarm saying the fighting had already displaced thousands and more were likely to flee their homes as the population was “living in fear.”
Refugees and Repatriation Ministry spokesperson Reza Baher said some 98,000 people had registered as displaced in the past two weeks across the country.
“Most of this displacement took place in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces” that have faced several Taliban attacks, Baher told EFE.
The latest figures increased the total number of displaced people in the past four months to 357,000 persons.
“They left behind all their belongings and are in dire need of food, shelter, and health care,” Baher said.
He said the raging battle had hindered humanitarian work in Kandahar, Helmand, and Herat provinces.
The defense ministry said Tuesday security forces and Taliban fighters were fighting intense battles in at least 11 of the 34 Afghan provinces.
At least 375 Taliban fighters were killed and 193 injured in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said. EFE