Conflicts & War

Taliban launch major assault on provincial capital in eastern Afghanistan

Kabul, May 24 (EFE).- Hundreds of Taliban fighters were marching to overrun the provincial capital in eastern Afghanistan after weeks of fierce gun battle with security forces in Laghman province, officials said on Monday.

The officials said the insurgents launched a major assault on Sunday night, bringing the battle near the outskirts of Mehtarlam city.

They almost breached the security belt of the city before security forces pushed them back to the outskirts, a Laghman security official told EFE, requesting anonymity.

Acting Defense Minister Muhammad Yasin Zia and some top security officials oversaw the counterattack in Laghman as they traveled to the province after the security situation worsened over the weekend.

The Afghan security forces advanced toward Alingar and Alishang districts and recaptured territories lost to the Taliban, the officials said.

“More than 50 terrorists, including some of their commanders and foreign fighters, were killed and 60 injured,” provincial governor spokesperson Asadullah Dawlatzai told EFE.

The insurgents captured the Dawlat-Shah district in the last three weeks of the fighting.

They overran several security check posts and bases on the highways that connect Mehtarlam city to Alingar and Alishang district headquarters.

They also captured several Afghan troops and seized their weapons and vehicles, raising questions about a possible security breach.

Laghman governor’s office told EFE they dismissed and arrested 110 security and administrative officials on the charges of “negligence” of duties and not “acting properly” to resist the Taliban assault.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed, on his Twitter, that the fighters were near the provincial capital and had captured 37 security posts over the past day.

Some city residents claimed that people came out of their homes on Monday morning to resume their daily life after a night of heavy fighting on the outskirts.

“It was a difficult night. For several hours, we heard gunshots and thought the city might fall to the militants,” Emal Qazizada told EFE over the phone.

Mehtarlam is the second provincial capital to come under Taliban attacks in the past three weeks as the United States-led foreign troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The withdrawal began on May 1 and will be completed by Sep.11.

The Taliban have so far have captured at least five districts in different provinces of the country.

They attacked Lashkargah, the capital of southwestern Helmand province, earlier this month.

Violence in the country is on the rise amid stalled intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha.

The talks started in September last year without any breakthrough in the past nearly nine months. EFE

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