Sun Aug 6, 2017 05:46AM
Taliban militants are seen in Ahmad Aba district on the outskirts of Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province, Afghanistan, on July 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Taliban militants are seen in Ahmad Aba district on the outskirts of Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province, Afghanistan, on July 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The Taliban militants have taken control of a key area in northern Afghanistan after heavy clashes that claimed the lives of at least seven security forces, a provincial official says.

Zabi Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the militant group launched a series of coordinated attacks in the northern Sari Pul Province on Saturday, seizing control of the strategic Mirzawalang area in Sayad district after over two days of battles.

He said local security forces had called in but not gotten government reinforcements.

“We requested reinforcement from the central government, unfortunately couldn’t get any support, that is why the forces lost control of Mirzawalang,” Amani said.

The spokesman said that ten Taliban militants, including two group leaders, had been killed and four Afghan security officers wounded in the two days of gun battles in the northern province.

There are unconfirmed reports that more than a dozen civilians and a local policeman have been killed by the militants following the takeover of the area, according to Amani.

The Taliban have reportedly recently stepped up their attacks in Afghanistan, mostly in the south of the country.

In late July, the militants overran the district of Jani Khel in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia, gaining a straight third victory in just four days.

Previously, the Taliban had raided and seized Kohistan district in the northern Faryab Province after storming the district government’s headquarters. The militants also captured the Taywara district in western Ghor Province.

Ghor’s counter-narcotics unit director killed

In a separate development on Saturday, two unknown gunmen killed the provincial director of the counter-narcotics unit in Ghor Province.

Iqbal Nezami, the spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the two men on a motorbike fatally shot Counter-narcotics Chief Noorudin Shairfi in the provincial capital, Faroz Koh. He added that police had launched an investigation into the incident.

No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility for the attack in Ghor.

Afghan policeman killed while attempting insider attack

Meanwhile, a member of the Afghan police force was shot and killed by NATO soldiers when he allegedly attempted to carry out an attack against NATO foreign forces after the end of a training session in the southern province of Kandahar.

“The advisers had completed a scheduled law enforcement training session and were preparing to return to base when they were attacked by a member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police,” a statement released by the NATO mission said.

One Romanian soldier was wounded in the attack and an Afghan policeman sustained injuries in the exchange of fire with the assailant, the statement added.

Italian NATO soldiers and Afghan security forces patrol in the Guzara district of Herat Province, May 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Insecurity has gripped Afghanistan since 2001, when the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.

US-led forces formally ended the combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. But the United States has about 8,400 troops in the country alongside another 5,000 from NATO forces.

Over the past 16 years, the Taliban militants have been conducting terrorist attacks across the country, killing and displacing civilians. In addition, the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has recently managed to take recruits from Afghan Taliban defectors.