Taliban launch large-scale assault on western Afghan city

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban launched attacks from multiple directions on a city in western Afghanistan early Tuesday, killing and wounding at least six security forces, officials said.

Fared Bakhtawer, head of the Farah provincial council, said the insurgents overran several security checkpoints in the provincial capital of the same name and that heavy fighting was underway. He said casualties were high among security forces, but couldn't provide a precise number.

"Security checkpoints around the city have collapsed into the hands of the Taliban, causing high casualties among security forces," he said.

Samihullah Samim, a lawmaker from Farah, said parts of the city are under Taliban control, with heavy fighting underway just 300 meters (yards) from the governor's residence. He said if the Taliban gain a foothold then fighters from neighboring provinces would flood into the city. Farah borders Helmand province, where the Taliban control several districts.

"If the security forces can't take control of the whole city by the end of the day, then it will be very difficult to take control of the city anytime soon," he said.

Local reporters said the city was empty and shops, schools and government offices were closed as people hid inside their homes.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least six security forces were killed and 12 others, including the deputy provincial police chief, were wounded in the fighting.

He said commando units and other reinforcements had been sent in, with the support of Afghan warplanes. "There is no danger of Farah city collapsing into the hands of Taliban," he said.

Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban in recent years, as the insurgents have seized several districts across the country. The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, but still provide support.

NATO said in a statement Tuesday that A-10 close support fighter jets were circling Farah, which it said remains under government control.

"The Afghan security forces are bringing their full capabilities, consisting of Army, Police, Commandos and Air Force, to bear on the situation," it said, adding that U.S. forces "stand firm beside our Afghan partners and will continue to reinforce this Afghan-led offensive."

Farah province has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with local officials and tribal elders requesting addition forces from the already overstretched army and police.

The Taliban claimed the assault on Farah in statement to media, saying they had attacked from multiple directions.

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