Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters have been locked in heavy clashes for the last two days after the insurgents entered the capital of the southern province of Helmand, officials said on Friday, as civilians rushed to evacuate the city.
With US-led foreign forces nearing a complete withdrawal of troops, the Taliban have made swift territorial gains over the last two months but have not yet captured any provincial capitals.
“Since Thursday morning the Taliban have launched attacks from several directions on Lashkargah city,” a government official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. Lashkargah is the capital of Helmand, a southern province that borders Pakistan.
The official added that Afghan security forces have thus, far held back the Taliban’s attempt to take the city with the help of the Afghan air force, but operations were hampered by the presence of civilians in the area.
“Hundreds of families have left the area and moved to other safer places,” Hafiz Ahmad, a resident of one Lashkargah neighbourhood where clashes are ongoing, told Reuters.