Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Taliban attack on checkpoint in northern Baghlan province kills 44

Taliban attack on checkpoint in northern Baghlan province kills 44

Afghanistan has seen a recent surge in violence, including a huge Taliban onslaught on the city of Ghazni that started late last week.

A Taliban attack on a military outpost in the northern province of Baghlan has killed as many as 44 Afghan police and soldiers, provincial officials said, as the insurgents kept up pressure on government forces.

"They were facing severe shortages of food and drinking water as the power supply was also suspended two days ago", a Taliban commander, who declined to be identified, said by telephone.

With parliamentary elections due on October 20, the government had been bracing for more attacks in Kabul and other cities, even while hopes of peace talks with the Taliban had been fuelled by a three day truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. He said eight military Humvees were also seized.

A suicide blast in a mainly Shi'ite area of Kabul killed at least 48 people on Wednesday, the latest in a wave of attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, soldiers and policemen over recent days.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, denied the insurgents have been routed from Ghazni and said sporadic gunbattles were still ongoing.

Tens of thousands of residents have been trapped inside the strategic provincial capital since more than 1,000 Taliban militants overran its defences in a pre-dawn assault on Friday.

Zabul police said that at least seven Taliban were also killed in the clash.

The Taliban, who launched their Ghazni assault last Friday and battled Afghan forces backed by US air strikes in the middle of the city for days, said their fighters had been pulled out to prevent further harm to the city's population.

The fall of Ghazni, which is the capital of the province of the same name, would be an important victory for the Taliban, cutting Highway One, a key route linking Kabul to the southern provinces, the insurgents' traditional heartland.

The fighting brought civilian life in the city to a standstill, and also severely damaged Ghazni's historic neighborhoods and cultural treasures.

In Kabul, Nilab Mobarez, the secretary general of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, said her organisation was ready to go into Ghazni and help the wounded - both the civilians and the combatants.

He blamed the Taliban, saying the rockets they fire at Afghan security forces often harm civilians. But he said wounded people are still arriving at the city's only hospital, which has been overwhelmed by the casualties.

The violence underlined how an emboldened Taliban - which was ousted by American forces after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the USA - has been pressing its advantage throughout the country.

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