Over 70 killed in Afghanistan’s continues clashes

LASHKAR GAH, (Afghanistan): Several members of the government security forces and at least 70 have been killed during the ongoing clashes in the Lashkar Gah city, southern Afghanistan, authorities said on Monday. Fighting resumed early Monday after scores of Taliban militants launched a massive attack on security checkpoints in the surrounding area of the city, capital of Helmand province, a local source told Xinhua. “The militants captured control of Police District 4 of the city, and they also overran the neighboring Nad Ali district late on Sunday. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are involved in a counter-attack and sporadic fighting continued during Monday in the city,” the source said.
At least 70 Taliban militants were killed and several wounded during fighting and airstrikes were conducted by Afghan Air Force in and around the city in the past 24 hours, the source said.
Clashes erupted after hundreds of Taliban members armed with guns and propelled grenades arrived from northern Helmand districts and the neighboring Kandahar and Farah provinces in recent days, Khalil Ul Rahman Jawad, the provincial police chief, told reporters earlier in the day. Mawlawi Ghafoor, the militants’ designated deputy governor for Helmand, was arrested during the fierce clashes on Sunday, according to the police chief. The militants tried to take control of Lashkar Gah, but failed after the mastermind of the plan Mawlawi Ghafoor was arrested, he said.
A main road connecting national capital Kabul with southern and western provinces has also been blocked in the Helmand section since Sunday. The police chief noted that the security forces made tactical retreat in parts of the city to avoid civilian and military casualties. “Reinforcement forces arrived in Helmand from Kabul. The ANDSF will soon launch a major operation to kick out militants who captured areas inside and on outskirts of Lashkar Gah,” he said.
Scores of families were displaced following the fighting. Helmand province, notorious for poppy growing, is a known Taliban stronghold.
Meanwhile, Amid increase in Afghan fighting, the Ulema or religious scholars in a gathering held in Kunduz city the capital of northern Kunduz province on Sunday have condemned the ongoing conflict and hostilities in the country as illegitimate and called upon the Taliban outfit to observe ceasefire and facilitate the peace talks to succeed. “The people of Afghanistan have fed up with war, the prolonged war that has destroyed our country and has devoured the people’s life and properties,” head of the Religious Council of the troubled Kunduz province Mawlawi Mohammad Aqel Sirat said in his speech at the gathering attended by hundreds of people in Kunduz city.
“I am calling upon the Taliban to first stop violence, observe ceasefire and then project its demands at the peace talks with government,” Aqel told the audience. The religious scholar called for the ceasefire amid ongoing but difficult intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha and increasing insurgency in Afghanistan.–Agencies