13 militants killed in Afghanistan

13 militants killed in Afghanistan

13 militants killed in Afghanistan

KABUL-Fighting raged Tuesday between Taliban militants and Afghan government forces for control of a provincial capital near the Iranian border, local officials said, in a confrontation shaping up as a stern test of US efforts to build an effective, local force.

The attack - the first major assault targeting a city since the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive - began around midnight, with the militants capturing one urban district and parts of another, said local provincial council member Jamila Amini.

A doctor from the provincial hospital in Farah, who did not want to be identified, said so far two dead and 16 wounded members of the Afghan security forces, as well as five wounded civilians including women and children, had been taken to the hospital.

Unconfirmed reports said the Taliban had seized Farah's central prison and freed several hundred inmates, including dozens of militants.

A spokesman for the Taliban said in an online message that the insurgents had taken most of the provincial capital.

Farah has only about 50,000 residents, and the surrounding province, also called Farah, is a remote and poor rural region known mostly for growing opium poppies.

Afghan security forces have struggled to combat the Taliban and IS since the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat role in the country in 2014, shifting to a support and counterterrorism mission.

On Monday, CEO of the National Unity Government (NUG) Abdullah Abdullah said soldiers have been under siege for months, but relevant security officials are busy with other issues.

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Government forces including 100 commandoes have arrived and are clashing with the insurgents, a local provincial council member told AFP, as residents said the situation was "very bad".

Inside the city residents reported clashes were continuing.

"I saw two rickshaw drivers on the ground with their arms blown off", said Khan Mohammad, a local resident who saw the initial blasts and the start of the gun battle.

Many radio and television channels in the province have stopped broadcasting, fearing for their employees' lives, according to media watchdog Nai.

Most people are staying indoors.

According to Salangi the Taliban failed to capture the NDS directorate, Farah prison, police headquarters or "other key organizations and "soon they will be thwarted from the city". There are plans for a section of the multi-billion-dollar TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline to traverse it, a project with which the Taliban have pledged to cooperate.

Farah has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years.

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