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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Taliban overrun 2 districts in as many days, officials say

At least eight police were killed in separate battles against Taliban militants

Afghan Police search people on a highway leading to Shah Wali Khan district in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 22, 2017. EPA / Muhammad Sadiq
Afghan Police search people on a highway leading to Shah Wali Khan district in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 22, 2017. EPA / Muhammad Sadiq

Taliban fighters overran a second district headquarters in as many days on Sunday, this one in western Ghor province, the provincial police chief said.

At least eight police were killed in separate battles against Taliban militants, who have stepped up their attacks in the north and west of the country laying siege to district headquarters, said Mohammad Mustafa Moseni.

Mr Moseni said the Taliban launched four assaults on Ghor's Taywara district headquarters early Sunday and "we had no choice but to retreat".

He said police have taken up positions about eight kilometres from the district headquarters while they wait for reinforcements to launch a counterattack.

The Taliban, in a statement to the media, announced the capture of Taywara district headquarters. The statement, however, said 46 Afghan government security forces were killed. There was no way to independently verify either death toll.

In northern Faryab province's Lawlash district, two police officers were killed late Saturday night when Taliban using the cover of darkness to attack the district headquarters set fire to the police buildings, Abdul Karim Yourish, provincial police chief spokesman, said on Sunday.

Government offices as well as the police headquarters were located inside the compound, he said.

Meanwhile, Afghan police on Sunday launched a search and rescue operation two days after at least 70 villagers were kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

No groups has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and it was also not clear why the villagers were seized, though some government officials have suggested the villagers might have been kidnapped on suspicion of co-operation with the Afghan government.

Civilians are increasingly caught in the crosshairs of Afghanistan's worsening conflict as the Taliban step up their annual spring offensive, launched in April against the Western-backed Kabul government.

Highways around Afghanistan passing through insurgency-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with the Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travellers.

In July, Taliban fighters closed a highway connecting Farah to Herat city, stopping a bus and forcing 16 passengers to leave it. They shot at least seven of them, while the remaining nine were taken hostage.

In recent days, Taliban have launched dozens of attacks in northern Afghanistan, temporarily closing a key highway between the capital Kabul and northern Afghanistan.

The attacks reflect the Taliban's efforts to apply pressure on government troops and police across the country and not just in their strongholds in the south and east of Afghanistan.

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