Taliban battle into west Afghan city in new crisis for government

Afghan capital Kabul hit by explosion

Six members of Afghan security forces and eight Taliban militants were killed on Tuesday after heavy fighting in Farah city, the provincial capital of the western province of Farah.

The NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul said U.S. A-10 attack aircraft were also supporting Afghan forces and there had been at least one drone strike, while Afghan air force A-29s and Mi-17 helicopters had conducted multiple attacks.

Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with government forces fighting the continuing Taliban insurgency, while other extremist groups, such as the Daesh* terrorist group, have also expanded their activities both in the country and neighboring states. He said fighters launched attacks from multiple directions, after which they overran several checkpoints in the city.

Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat forces at the end of 2014.

A Taleban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi issued a statement late on Tuesday afternoon on WhatsApp messaging groups claiming that the insurgents had taken "most parts of Farah city".

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He said investigators had not found an explosive device at the scene on a lower floor of the building. Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

"The Taliban are roaming around and fighting in various areas of the city".

Located along one of the country's most lucrative drug routes, between Helmand province in the south and Iran to the west, the province has been embattled for months.

Residents in Farah have long warned that the city was vulnerable.

"An intense battle is going on in the city", he said without providing additional details. He said casualties were high among security forces, but couldn't provide a precise number. At least eight insurgents had been killed and three wounded, it said.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said in a statement on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) that A-10 close support fighter jets were circling Farah, which it said remains under government control.

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"First 1,000 Taliban insurgents attacked Farah districts on Tuesday and after the first attack over 1,000 other insurgents also joined the attack".

Another provincial council member, Dadullah Qani, confirmed Hissaini's comments, the sound of gunfire and explosions audible as he spoke to an AFP reporter by telephone. Despite the pressure of greatly stepped-up USA and Afghan airstrikes, the Taliban have shown little interest in the Afghan government's offer of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Farah is a poppy-growing province in a hard to reach part of Afghanistan. There are plans for a section of the multi-billion-dollar TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline to traverse it.

The insurgents have tried several times to take provincial capitals in recent years, including Kunduz and Lashkar Gah, with the Afghan army deploying significant numbers of troops to hold those cities and push the militants out.

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