Kabul, Aug 5 (EFE).- Afghan troops have begun a major offensive to drive away Taliban fighters after evacuating civilians from the besieged Lashkargah city, the capital of the southern Helmand province, an army spokesperson said Thursday.
“We began the large-scale clearing operation in Lashkargah last night to clear the city of Taliban fighters hiding in civilian houses,” the spokesperson, Qader Bahadarzoy, told EFE.
Hundreds of elite Afghan forces are taking part in the operation.
“They are hitting the Taliban hard,” Bahadarzoy said.
He said the Afghan air force is bombing the Taliban hideouts and positions to support the ground operations.
“Dozens of terrorists were killed by special forces just in the past few hours,” he said.
The Afghan defense ministry said the forces killed at least 11 Taliban fighters on the city outskirts.
On Tuesday, at least 40 civilians lost their lives, and more than 100 suffered injuries in intense clashes between the insurgents and Afghan security forces in Lashkargah.
The army called for the evacuation of civilians for an operation by the elite forces against the militants.
The clashes in Lashkargah came amid an increase in violence by the Islamist militia.
The Taliban captured some 125 district centers, their unprecedented territorial gain in the last two decades of war, after the start of the withdrawal of foreign troops on May 1.
The heavy fighting in recent days has also triggered the exodus of thousands of civilians from their homes, many of them living in makeshift tents.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in Lashkargah alone.
In the past two weeks, some 100,000 civilians registered as displaced in Afghanistan due to intense battles across the country.
The defense ministry said government forces gunned down more than 300 Taliban fighters in different parts of Afghanistan. EFE