The Taliban has pushed into the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Uruzgan province, touching off fierce clashes and sending all government officials fleeing from the city, according to an Afghan government official.
Fighters fought their way to within a few hundred metres of the governor’s compound and police headquarters on Thursday while gun battles spread in Tarinkot, a city of about 70,000 people, said Wais Samim, the provincial police chief.
Officials in Uruzgan have fled to the airport, which houses an Afghan military base, police officials told Al Jazeera.
However, within hours the Afghan Ministry of Defence said the Taliban had been repelled from Tarinkot.
Mohammad Radmanish, the ministry’s deputy spokesman, said the army, police and intelligence service headquarters in the city had been secured.
He said all strategic locations in Tirinkot were under government control and reinforcements were being sent to the Uruzgan provincial capital.
Air support has been called in and Afghan air strikes have killed several Taliban fighters in Tarinkot, said Radmanish.
The Taliban, for its part, said Afghan security forces had sustained losses and that its fighters were advancing on Tarinkot.
“Mujahidin enter Uruzgan capital Tarin Kowt city,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, said in a statement.
Tarinkot is the third Afghan provincial capital to come under Taliban threat in recent months, along with the city of Kunduz in the north and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.
The surge in Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces has prompted the US to send additional troops to Helmand, whose capital, Lashkar Gah, is under heavy pressure from the fighters.
Kareem Atal, Helmand’s council head, earlier said that roughly 80 percent of the province is already under Taliban control.
The fighters also overran a district in Baghlan province in the north and in Paktia province in the east.
Meanwhile, in Nangarhar province in the east, the Taliban are fighting pitched battles with security forces.
Afghanistan’s defence ministry says its security forces are currently waging operations in 15 provinces.