Hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed a strategic district in an Afghan province southwest of the capital and are on the verge of capturing it after killing dozens of people and beheading some in days of fighting, officials said today.
The Ghazni provincial government has lost contact with police in the province’s western district of Ajrestan, said Asadullah Safi, deputy police chief of the area. An army unit reported that fighting was raging late today afternoon, another provincial official said.
If there is no urgent help from the central government, the district will collapse, Safi said earlier. The battle for Ajrestan illustrates the grave challenges facing Afghanistan’s new president and the security forces in holding territory as foreign combat troops prepare to leave at the end of the year.
No longer pinned down by US air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in large numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground. Ghazni is on the main highway linking Kabul to southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been making advances in recent months.
The attack by an estimated 700 Taliban fighters began about five days ago and early reports were that more than 100 people had been killed, including 15 who were beheaded by the militants, said provincial deputy governor Ahmadullah Ahmadi. Safi said a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint early today before provincial authorities lost contact with the district.
By late Friday afternoon, officials had contacted an army unit that reported that fighting was still going on, Ahmadi said. Afghan army commandos from outside the province had arrived to reinforce police and soldiers, he said.
The Taliban are fighting to expel US-led foreign forces and the US-backed Kabul governnment.
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