No govt building in Taliban control in Farah: Danish

KABUL-Fighting raged Tuesday between Taliban militants and Afghan government forces for control of a provincial capital near the Iranian border, local officials said, in a confrontation shaping up as a stern test of US efforts to build an effective, local force.

The Taliban overran several security checkpoints in the city near Afghanistan's border with Iran.

Residents said Taliban forces began their attack at around 2.00 a.m. (2130 GMT Monday) from several directions.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, in a busy area of the city with many other official buildings nearby, including a school in which about 1,000 girls were trapped as the fighting raged. The Taliban have seized control of districts across the country, and the two groups have carried out attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in recent months that killed scores of people.

In January, NATO's Resolute Support Mission, tasked with building up the Afghan government's security forces, assessed that almost 15 percent of the country's 407 districts - more than 20 percent of the landmass - was under insurgent control or influence, according to a watchdog report released this month.

Deadly clashes re-erupted in Farah early morning as the Taliban launched a second round of coordinated assaults in the week.

"The Taliban are moving very fast, if the government does not take serious and speedy action, the province is going to collapse to Taliban", local resident Hamidullah said.

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

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the Afghan air force was also taking part in the battle.

Another provincial council member, Dadullah Qani, confirmed Hissaini's comments.

But the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said on May 11 that the Taliban "cannot win militarily".

Many radio and television channels in the province have stopped broadcasting, fearing for their employees' lives, according to media watchdog Nai.

According to a local hospital official, at least two people were killed and 16 more were injured, including Abdul Raziq Sherzad, the deputy police chief.

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

  • Jon Douglas