Afghan forces, Taliban clash near capital

29
Mihtarlam

Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters in a provincial capital about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Kabul, officials and witnesses said, prompting the defence minister to take charge of a counteroffensive.

Violence has soared in Afghanistan since US forces began their final pull-out on May 1, as the insurgents press on with a campaign to seize new territory.

Fierce fighting erupted late Sunday on the edge of Mihtarlam, a city of around 140,000 people and the capital of Laghman province. At one point Defence Minister Yasin Zia took personal charge in the field, officials said.

“With the arrival of reinforcements, the enemy has sustained heavy blows,” Zia, a former army chief of staff, said in a video message. The ministry said at least 50 Taliban fighters were killed in overnight fighting.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the insurgents captured 37 security checkpoints on the outskirts of the city.

Casualty figures and battlefield gains can rarely be independently verified in Afghanistan and both sides frequently exaggerate their successes and minimise losses.—AFP