Hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed a district in Afghanistan’s western Badghis province, with both Afghan government forces and the insurgent group suffering dozens of casualties, provincial officials said.
The district of Bala Murghab has been a recurring hotspot of fighting in the past two months, and officials have previously warned that it could fall to the Taliban without reinforcements.
Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated ahead of the usual spring season, as both sides seek to increase leverage in talks on a peace settlement.
The Taliban killed 36 members of the government forces and captured several security checkpoints in attacks that began on Wednesday night, Waris Sherzad, district governor of Bala Murghab, said late on Thursday. Fighting was ongoing, he said.
More than 30 Taliban were also killed, said Jamshed Shahabi spokesman for Badghis’ provincial governor.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said it attacked from four directions, capturing five checkpoints.
Afghanistan’s defence ministry, in a series of tweets, said its forces chose to “tactically retreat” from the checkpoints to prevent civilian casualties. The ministry said it called in multiple air strikes on Taliban positions.
On Friday, the defence ministry said Afghan forces had forced the Taliban to retreat from some checkpoints and that all key areas remained under its control