Taliban overrun Helmand’s Khanshin district centre
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok): The Taliban on Wednesday overran the Khanshin district entre in southern Helmand province after fierce clashes with security forces, said a public representative.
Karim Atal, the provincial council chief, told Pajhwok Aghan News the district centre fell to the insurgents at about 3pm after the clashes forced security forces into retreat. He said the security forces moved to an army base three kilometers from the district centre.
He said it seemed the Taliban had torched the district headquarters building, adding that 14 army and police personnel were killed and another 11 including the district police chief, Ruaf Khan, were injured during the clashes with the insurgents.
The public representative said if reinforcements did not reach the district until Thursday, the remaining parts of the town would likely to fall into the hands of Taliban.
A security official told Pajhwok Afghan News that clashes between security forces and insurgents had been ongoing over the past three days but no assistance was dispatched to the security forces.
He said Khanshin was a border district and the Taliban had been able to quickly receive logistics and this resulted in the collapse of the district centre. He said the Khanshin police chief had seriously injured in the battle.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said the fighters had completely overrun the district.
Residents of neighbouring Garamsir district said security posts came under firing following the fall of Khanshin district.
The Khanshin district fell hours after a senior security official told Pajhwok Afghan News that security forces had pushed back a major Taliban push to capture district last night.
Helmand police chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Rahman Sarjang said security forces had prior information that 150 to 200 Taliban militants laced with light and heavy weapons were planning a major attack on Khanshin district.
Prepared for the assaults, security forces pushed back the insurgents after they launched their offensive last night and inflicted heavy casualties on them, he said. Sarjang did not provide figures for casualties among security forces.
But another security official said 17 policemen had been killed and their weapons seized by the rebels.
The provincial police chief said fresh army and police forces had reached Khanshin to strengthen security there. He said the security forces had air support and the Taliban would not be able to capture the district.
The governor’s spokesman, Omar Zwak, said the insurgents had been attacking security forces in Khanshin district over the past few days, but last night the rebels wanted to wage a massive assault.
He also said fresh security forces had reached Khanshin and the problem would be resolved soon.
Last night attacks by insurgents left 10 policemen killed and wounded, but the attackers sustained heavy casualties, Zwak said, but provided no specific figures.
The deputy provincial council chief, Abdul Majid Akhunzada, said the violence in Helmand had escalated and the conflict had spread to Khanshin after the collapse of Musa Qala and Nawzad districts.
For the insurgents, he said, it was easy to fight in Khanshin district instead of northern districts because the town shared a long border with Pakistan enabling their movement.
The public representative said if the insurgents were not contained in Khanshin, they would capture Garamsir and Nawa districts as well.
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