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RFE/RL Gandhara

Afghan Army, Taliban Clash Close To Kabul

By Radio Free Afghanistan May 24, 2021

Afghan government forces clashed with Taliban militants in a provincial capital about 120 kilometers from Kabul, officials and witnesses said on May 24.

Violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan since U.S. forces began their final pullout on May 1, as the militants press on with a campaign to seize new territory.

Fierce fighting erupted late on May 23 on the edge of Mihtarlam, a city of around 140,000 people and the capital of the eastern province of Laghman. Militants attacked the central prison before they were pushed back by security forces.

At one point Defense Minister Yasin Zia took personal charge in the field, officials said.

"With the arrival of reinforcements, the enemy has sustained heavy blows," Zia, a former army chief of staff, said in a video message.

Local councilors Gulzar Sangarwal and Atiqullah Abdul Rahimzai also said that some 100 security officials had been arrested over negligence of their duties and transferred to Kabul after the Taliban attacked Mihtarlam.

According to a spokesman for the provincial governor, the deputy of the National Directorate of Security secret service was among the 100 officials arrested after the attack was repelled.

The ministry said at least 50 Taliban fighters were killed in overnight fighting.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants captured 37 security checkpoints on the outskirts of Mihtarlam.

Casualty figures and battlefield gains can rarely be independently verified in Afghanistan and both sides frequently exaggerate their successes and minimize losses.

The attack on Mihtarlam comes as the Taliban pushes on in efforts to capture more territory.

Militants have recently seized the districts of Nerkh and Jalraiz in the province of Wardak, just 40 kilometers from Kabul.

Wardak has long been used by the Taliban as a gateway to reach the capital and launch deadly attacks.

The Taliban also captured Burka in the northern province of Baghlan earlier this month after government troops withdrew from the area.

Militants also attacked a military facility in the Guzargah-e Noor district of Baghlan late on May 24, killing at least eight soldiers and wounding at least seven, officials said.

The withdrawal of foreign troops after two decades, due to be completed by September 11, leaves Afghanistan to a potentially bleak future amid rising attacks by Taliban militants. The Islamic State group is also active in the country.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Source: https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/afghan-army-taliban- clash-close-to-kabul/31271496.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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