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Taliban make push into regional capital

Security forces struggle to hold Farah

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Taliban carried out attacks from multiple directions on a city in western Afghanistan early Tuesday, officials said.

Fared Bakhtawer, head of the Farah provincial council, said the insurgents overran several security checkpoints in the provincial capital of the same name and that heavy fighting was underway.

"Security checkpoints around the city have collapsed into the hands of the Taliban, causing high casualties among security forces," he said.

Today, Farah provincial Gov. Abdul Basir Salangi said government forces had pushed back the Taliban fighters.

Salangi said more than 300 Taliban fighters were killed in the gunbattle. He said 25 government troops also died.

He said residents had begun clearing the city, including removing the bodies of the Taliban attackers.

On Tuesday, Samihullah Samim, a lawmaker from Farah, said parts of the city were under Taliban control, and the fighting had moved within 300 yards of the governor's residence. He expressed worry that if the Taliban gained a foothold, then fighters from neighboring provinces would flood into the city. Farah borders Helmand province, where the Taliban control several districts.

Local reporters said Tuesday that the city was empty, and shops, schools and government offices were closed as people hid inside their homes.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said commando units and other reinforcements had been sent in, with the support of Afghan warplanes. "There is no danger of Farah city collapsing into the hands of Taliban," he said Tuesday.

Afghan forces have struggled to fight the Taliban in recent years as the insurgents have seized several districts across the country. The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014 but still provide support.

NATO said in a statement Tuesday that A-10 close support fighter planes were circling Farah.

"The Afghan security forces are bringing their full capabilities, consisting of Army, Police, Commandos and Air Force, to bear on the situation," it said, adding that U.S. forces "stand firm beside our Afghan partners and will continue to reinforce this Afghan-led offensive."

Farah province has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with local officials and tribal elders requesting additional forces from the already overstretched army and police.

The Taliban claimed the attack on Farah in statement to media, saying their fighters had attacked from multiple directions.

A Section on 05/16/2018

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