Fears for Afghan metropolis of Lashkar Gah as fierce clashes proceed

Intense combating has continued in Afghanistan’s key southern provincial capital of Lashkar Gah between the Taliban and authorities forces because the hardline Islamist group pushes on with its efforts to grab town.

Amid fears town was in imminent hazard of falling, clashes continued all through the evening as US and Afghan airstrikes pounded Taliban positions, with each side digging into positions in public buildings and residents being warned to remain indoors.

The heaviest combating was reported round the primary authorities compound, the jail – the place an try to free prisoners was repulsed – and headquarters of the police and intelligence company, with one official suggesting a whole bunch of troopers had surrendered.

No less than 40 civilians have been reported killed and greater than 100 wounded within the final 24 hours within the metropolis.

Fida Mohammad, a tribal elder, mentioned: “The scenario is appalling. The Taliban are climbing all of the high-rise buildings within the centre of town and establishing fortifications then being bombed by the federal government.”

The lack of Lashkar Gah could be a giant strategic and psychological blow for the federal government, which has pledged to defend cities in any respect prices after dropping a lot of the agricultural countryside to the Taliban over the summer time.

Mohammad Omar, a resident of Lashkar Gah, mentioned his cousin had been killed in an airstrike whereas different members of his household had been pressured to flee the combating, including that clashes have been ongoing in all elements of town.

“The sample is that the federal government forces are weakly combating in opposition to the Taliban throughout the day, after which when evening comes the federal government then launches its airstrikes.”

Abdul Majeed Akhundzada, a member of Helmand’s provincial council, criticised the federal government’s dealing with of the disaster, including that he was uncertain of the promise of reinforcements.

“The town is shut down and no person is transferring,” he mentioned. “Lots of of troopers have surrendered, and weapons and services have fallen into the arms of the Taliban.”

The continued contest for Helmand’s essential metropolis, for years a spotlight of US and British navy operations, got here as authorities forces appeared to have pushed the Taliban out of a number of areas within the economically essential western metropolis of Herat following the current arrival of a whole bunch of commando reinforcements.

Whereas the Taliban’s countrywide offensive has focused three provincial capitals, together with Kandahar and Herat, the try to take Lashkar Gah has emerged for now as the important thing battle within the group’s ambitions to take and maintain a provincial capital within the hope it is going to topple the encircling provinces.

In current days, the US navy has intensified airstrikes throughout the nation in a bid to stem Taliban advances, not least in Lashkar Gah, after every week of speedy advances.

The combating got here as the overall commanding Afghan forces in Helmand, Sami Sadat, warned {that a} Taliban takeover would have profound penalties for world safety.

In an interview with the BBC, he mentioned: “It will enhance the hope for small extremist teams to mobilise within the cities of Europe and America, and may have a devastating impact on world safety,” he mentioned. “This isn’t a battle of Afghanistan, it is a battle between liberty and totalitarianism.”

The Taliban has seized management of a lot of rural Afghanistan since international forces started the final stage of their withdrawal in early Might, however are assembly resistance as they attempt to take provincial capitals.

Though most US and different international floor forces have withdrawn, the US has confirmed it has launched airstrikes to assist the Afghan navy. Whereas some have been drone strikes, studies have additionally prompt that US B52 bombers – in all probability from the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar – have additionally flown in assist.

The persevering with violence in Helmand got here because the United Nations warned that “indiscriminate” gunfire and airstrikes have been hurting civilians essentially the most.

“Taliban floor offensive & ANA airstrikes inflicting most hurt,” the United Nations Help Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted Tuesday, referring to the Afghan Nationwide Military. “Deep issues about indiscriminate taking pictures & injury to/occupation of well being services & civilian properties.”

In Lashkar Gah, officers mentioned insurgents had seized greater than a dozen native radio and TV stations in Lashkar Gah leaving just one pro-Taliban channel, which broadcasted Islamic programming.

“Combating was intense this morning,” mentioned Sefatullah, director of Sukon radio within the metropolis.

“The US B52 and Afghan airforce each pounded the Taliban positions,” he mentioned, including that combating was ongoing close to town’s jail and a constructing housing the headquarters of police and intelligence companies.

Sefatullah mentioned his radio station had “stopped broadcasting two days in the past as a result of the Taliban captured the constructing of our station.”

Afghan officers mentioned that 10 different radio and 4 tv stations in Helmand had been seized by the Taliban, most within the provincial capital.

“Terrorists are not looking for the media to publish the information and expose their injustices,” the ministry of knowledge and tradition mentioned.

In Herat, Afghan officers mentioned authorities forces had managed to push again the insurgents from a number of areas of town – together with close to the airport, which is significant for resupplies – as a whole bunch of residents chanted “Allahu Akbar” from their rooftops after authorities forces repulsed the most recent Taliban assault.

“Afghan safety forces plus resistance forces launched a giant operation in west of town,” Jailani Farhad, spokesman for Herat’s governor, advised AFP. One other official mentioned the US had carried out airstrikes in Herat final evening.

Washington and London additionally lashed out on the Taliban, accusing them of committing atrocities which will quantity to “battle crimes” within the city of Spin Boldak, which the insurgents captured final month alongside the border with Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s Unbiased Human Rights Fee earlier mentioned the insurgents had indulged in revenge killings there, leaving at the least 40 folks useless.

“The Taliban chased and recognized previous and current authorities officers and killed these individuals who had no fight position within the battle,” the group mentioned.

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