Deaths as Taliban hit government offices in Afghanistan

At least three people are killed in a Taliban attack on police and intelligence offices in southern Helmand province.

    Deaths as Taliban hit government offices in Afghanistan
    The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in an area that includes the district governor's office, the police station and other government buildings [Watanyar/EPA]

    At least three people have been killed and several others wounded in a Taliban attack that targeted government offices in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, Afghan officials have said. 

    Omar Zwak, spokesman for Helmand's governor, said Taliban gunmen attacked police headquarters and intelligence agency offices in Gereshk town on Wednesday, triggering fierce fighting with security forces that lasted for "almost eight hours". 

    "About 10 Taliban fighters launched an attack on our intelligence facility but were repelled by our security forces," Zwak told Al Jazeera, adding that the three people killed were police officers.

    "We were being careful to avoid civilian casualties which took us longer to clear the area."

    READ MORE: Residents stranded as battle for Helmand intensifies 

    Jabbar Karaman, a member of parliament appointed by President Ashraf Ghani to investigate the incident, told Al Jazeera that the attack did not cause any damage to the government offices. 

    "The Taliban aim to attack government-owned places as a part of their strategy to take control of the province. We've been fighting them back and trying our best to avoid such attack in future," he said. 

    Yet, the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, told Al Jazeera that the assault had caused "heavy damage" to the facilities and several police officers were killed. 

    "Such attacks will continue. Most of the areas in Helmand are under our control," the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Al Jazeera. 

    Helmand has seen some of the fiercest battles between the Taliban and local and foreign forces since the fighting started in 2001.

    Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban since the US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014.

    READ MORE: No peace talks until foreign troops gone, say Taliban 

    The Afghan government has repeatedly called for direct talks with Taliban in recent weeks, but the armed group has rejected the call.

    The peace process was interrupted last summer when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was proclaimed dead.

    Last October, US President Barack Obama announced that thousands of US troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2016 - keeping the current force of 9,800 troops - amid a surge in Taliban attacks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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