Taliban seize strategic Afghan district

Heavy clashes ongoing in Hesarak

Kabul—Taliban guerrillas seized a district controlled by the Afghan government in northern Kunduz province on Saturday, cutting off access to two key highways leading to the provincial capital that the militants overran for a short period last year, officials said.
The capture of the Khan Abad district, about a half-hour drive from the provincial capital Kunduz city, comes after days of clashes in which the insurgents took territory both in Kunduz and adjacent Baghlan province.
The latest Taliban gains in the north, far from its traditional power base, come amid a growing dispute between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah over who will lead the national unity government.
The clashes have also damaged power lines, supplying electricity from neighbouring Tajikistan to Kunduz and several other parts of the country, including Kabul, causing interruptions of electricity, residents said.
“The Taliban began the attack at 4 a.m. and by 9 o’clock captured Khan Abad district as well as a strategic high ground there,” Kamal Safi, a lawmaker from Kunduz said by phone.
Mohammad Yousuf Ayoubi, head of Kunduz’s provincial capital, said hundreds of people have been forced to abandon their homes in Khan Abad and elsewhere in Kunduz because of the recent wave of fighting.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the militants seized “weapons and vehicles from fleeing government troops” after capturing Khan Abad.
On the other hand heavy clashes are ongoing in Nangarhar’s Hesarak district since Thursday night where many Taliban fighters have been killed and wounded so far, the 201 Selab Corps said in a statement on Saturday.
The statement added that at least 41 insurgents were killed and several others wounded in the conflict that started when a group of Taliban fighters attacked police outposts in the district on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, a number of Nangarhar tribal elders and residents said the Taliban have reached close to the district’s centre. “The clash is ongoing in Hesarak and so far several security forces’ check posts have fallen to the Taliban,” said Sher Jabarkhail, a tribal elder in Nangarhar.
“Taliban have reached close to Hesarak. There is no police chief or any other local official in the district,” said Naeem Walar, another tribal elder in the province.— Agencies

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