Taliban battle into west Afghan city in new crisis for government

Taliban battle into west Afghan city in new crisis for government

Taliban battle into west Afghan city in new crisis for government

Taliban fighters overran parts of western Farah city early Tuesday but were reportedly repelled by late evening as Afghan ground troops and reinforcements, backed by US and Afghan airstrikes, fought for hours to prevent the insurgents from capturing a second city since the conflict began in 2002.

But the defence ministry said the army had repulsed the attack, and "the security forces are now chasing the enemy".

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility. He said fighters launched attacks from multiple directions, after which they overran several checkpoints in the city. It borders Helmand Province, where the militants control several districts.

Heavy fighting has broken out in the western Afghan city of Farah after the Taliban launched a major offensive overnight to capture the provincial capital.

Violence has escalated across Afghanistan since the announcement of the Taliban's annual spring offensive last month and there have been heightened security fears around preparations for elections in October.

"The clashes in north and west of Farah city which is 3km far from the center is ongoing between the security forces and Taliban", Danish said, adding that "no government organization has fallen into the hands of the Taliban yet".

Around 100 commandoes joined government reinforcements to prevent the fall of Farah to the militants. "Gun battles, air strikes and explosions are taking place around the city", he told Xinhua earlier by phone.

Residents in Farah have long warned that the city was vulnerable.

Another provincial council member, Dadullah Qani, confirmed Hissaini's comments.

The Taliban issued a statement warning residents to remain inside their homes and called on people to "stay calm".

"I can say that it is street-to-street battle", a city official, Mohammed Sarwar Usmani, told Arab News.

But the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said on May 11 that the Taliban "cannot win militarily".

Farah is a poppy-growing province in a hard to reach part of Afghanistan which a section of the multi-billion-dollar TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline will traverse.

Footage released on social media shows that a number of security forces' vehicles have been torched and that the Taliban have entered a building used by the security forces. During 2017, they failed three times to seize the city.

Farah, which borders Iran, has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years.

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