Taliban attack capital of Helmand in southern Afghanistan

Taliban fighters launched an attack on the capital of Afghanistan's embattled southern province of Helmand, closing in on the already besieged city, officials said on Monday. 

"Taliban militants attacked checkpoints in 2nd district of Lashkargah city but were not able to penetrate it. Fighting is still ongoing in the area," said Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that militants had entered the besieged city and captured several checkpoints. 

A mine explosion in the city on Monday morning wounded and killed 14 people, said Amar Zwak, the spokesman for the governor of Helmand but the Italian-run Emergency hospital said it had received at least 30 wounded. 

In a statement the hospital said fighting had intensified and several rockets had hit the city with "one landing 30 metres from our hospital," injuring three people. 

It asked all sides of the conflict "to respect the hospital as a neutral structure and to allow the arrival of the wounded."

A Doctors Without Borders trauma centre in northern Kunduz province was bombed by US forces in September last year while the city was under Taliban control killing 42 patients and staff members and wounding over 30 others.  

Helmand is one of the most embattled provinces in southern Afghanistan with its capital city besieged for at least the last month. Its last two relatively safe districts have been under heavy Taliban fire as well.

In the north of the country, nearly 24,000 residents have been forced to leave the city of Kunduz due to ongoing fighting between security forces and Taliban militants, according to the UN. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said late Sunday most internally displaced persons (IDPs) had moved to the cities of Taloqan, Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif and Pul-e Khurmi. 

According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees the number of those forced to flee could rise up to 100,000.

"Shelter, sanitation, food, and medical assistance to wounded, children, pregnant/lactating mothers and chronically ill IDPs are most important," OCHA said. 

The Taliban attack on Kunduz started last Monday, a year after the militant group took hold of the strategically important city for two weeks before being driven out by Afghan forces. 

Local officials and residents say little has changed over the past week while the Afghan government claims to have cleared the city of insurgents with fighting ongoing outside city limits. 

According to media reports, the US have conducted more than 20 airstrikes to aid Afghan forces in the fighting. 

Last update: Mon, 10/10/2016 - 15:44
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