Heavy clashes in W. Afghanistan city as major Taliban offensive kicks off

Heavy clashes in W. Afghanistan city as major Taliban offensive kicks off

Heavy clashes in W. Afghanistan city as major Taliban offensive kicks off

In the last week Afghan security forces suffered heavy losses in clashes against insurgents across the country, but on Sunday the Afghan interior ministry said that security forces have retreated from some areas that have high threat levels so as to avoid additional fatalities.

The Taliban has launched a major offensive to capture a city in western Afghanistan, with heavy fighting breaking out in the area, officials say.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying fighters took "most parts of Farah city" and dozens of people, including three senior Afghan officials, were killed.

As to a report released May 1 by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), about 39% of the country's territory with 65% of the country's population is controlled by the government, while the number of the police and military forces is declining. The fighters launched the attacks from four directions on the city, which has over 50,000 residents.

The province, which also borders the opium-rich Taliban heartland of Helmand province, has key smuggling routes into Iran.

He said commando units and other reinforcements had been deployed.

"The situation is very bad", Satar Hussaini, a tribal elder in Farah, told AFP earlier.

Earlier in May, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan bases in the province, killing more than 40 police officers and servicemen.

Abdullah, who had been speaking at the Council of Ministers Meeting, said in recent days hundreds of soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war against militants.

But as the hours passed, residents and officials told news agencies by phone that local security forces were still in control of police headquarters and the national intelligence agency facility.

The attack, which comes as the Taleban step up their annual spring offensive, began around midnight, with the insurgents capturing one district and parts of another, local provincial council member Jamila Amini told AFP on Tuesday (May 15) from inside the city.

The insurgents in a statement warned residents to remain in their homes and "stay calm".

Farah is a poppy-growing province in an isolated region of Afghanistan. Afghan security forces have struggled to combat the two groups since the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation concluded their combat mission in 2014, switching to a counterterrorism and support role.

So far, it seems to have done little to curb the Taliban advance, and despite the pressure the insurgents haven't shown much interest in the government's offer of a comprehensive peace agreement.

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