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Afghan fighting escalates as Taliban tries to capture major cities

Afghan fighting escalates as Taliban tries to capture major cities

dpa
Kabul
Heavy fighting is under way in at least two Afghan provincial capitals, as government officials try to ward off Taliban offensives, officials said on Saturday.
In southern Helmand province, Taliban fighters were still battling with government forces in several police districts in Lashkargah city, local officials said.
The insurgents launched attacks on the city around four days ago.
Provincial councillor Abdul Majid Akhundzada told dpa on Saturday that airstrikes had hit a private hospital where Taliban fighters were hiding.
Akhundzada expressed fears about the ongoing conflict in populated urban areas.
“Many civilians have been trapped inside the war zone,” he said.
“There are casualties and fatalities.” More than 100 injured people, mostly civilians, have been brought to the city’s hospitals during the past four days, according to the head of the primary health care department in the province, Zakir Yaqin.
In western Herat province, the militants were fighting pro-government forces just a few kilometres from the city centre, provincial councillor Ghulam Habib Hashimi said.
The militants launched attacks on Injil and Guzara districts on Thursday, councillor Hashimi added.
The fighting was under way in Pul-e Malan, a historic bridge 10 kilometres from Herat, on Saturday, the provincial governor’s spokesperson, Jailani Farhad, said.
Taliban forces control at least 13 of the province’s 15 districts and have a huge presence in the remaining two districts.
To avoid a complete collapse of the province, hundreds of civilians led by a former mujahideen commander and a one-time Taliban prisoner in his 70s, Ismail Khan, are currently defending their hometown against the Taliban attacks, officials said.
On Friday, the Taliban briefly advanced and attacked a UN compound in Herat, killing one guard and injuring others. The attack was widely condemned.
In a statement, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the attack, adding that “attacks against civilian UN personnel and facilities are prohibited under international law.” Following the Taliban attack on the UN compound, airstrikes have been carried out by the Afghan and foreign air forces against the Taliban positions, Farhad said.
Reportedly, US B-52 bombers have targeted Taliban positions in the volatile Herat and Kandahar provinces. The US military has not responded to the request for comment.
At the meantime, all flights to and from the province have been suspended for safety reasons, Farhad confirmed.
Further minor clashes were reported from Kandahar province in the south.
Helmand, Kandahar, and Herat are the three largest provinces in Afghanistan by area. In the latest move, the Taliban militants have been pushing to capture these provinces.

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