Taliban militants captured a key district about 100 miles north of Afghanistan’s capital, which itself was hit by a bombing on Monday, a blow to the government in Kabul that’s coming under further pressure from a renewed surge in fighting.
Following days of heavy clashes with Afghan security forces, the Dahan-I-Ghori district in northern Baghlan province came under Taliban control, said Mahmood Haqmal, a spokesman for the province. Soon after its capture, the militants set some shops and fields ablaze, Haqmal said by phone on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed also confirmed the takeover in an e-mailed statement.
Despite air support from US and Afghan warplanes, government troops are struggling against the resilient Taliban, with senior government officials saying the insurgents are becoming better trained and equipped.
Amir Gul Hussainkhil, deputy police chief of Baghlan, said Dahan-e-Ghori district was under siege for days and the Taliban managed to seize it late on Sunday as dozens of Afghan forces made “a tactical retreat”.
The district is next to the provincial capital of Pol-e-Khomri, which has been threatened by insurgents for months.
“Afghan forces fought for days but no help arrived and they had to retreat and the Taliban captured the district,” Hussainkhil told, adding that five Afghan police were killed.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the fighters captured the district and hoisted their white flag.
“Many Afghan and militia forces have been killed and 33 soldiers are captured,” Mujahid said in an email statement to media.
Both sides often release casualty figures without independent verification.
Baghlan borders Kunduz province, where the Taliban briefly captured a provincial capital last year for the first time since they were ousted by a US-led operation in 2001.
In the southern province of Helmand, there has been fighting in four districts as Afghan forces hold off insurgents advancing on the provincial capital, government officials said.