Taliban attack Afghan province


Taliban militants launched a major attack in Afghanistan’s western province Farah, the latest in a series of assaults on provincial centres a day after a suicide bombing in Kabul, officials said.

The surge in violence convulsed Afghanistan despite a draft peace deal between the United States and hard-line Islamists for thousands of US troops to pull out in return forTaliban security promises.

Taliban insurgents set an Afghan army recruitment centre ablaze after a co-ordinated attack overnight from several points around Farah, said Mohibullah Mohib, a police spokesman.

“Taliban fighters are pushing to take over the prison but security forces are resisting,” Mohib added.

There were no immediate reports of casualties among either side.

Main roads were deserted and gunshots heard from surrounding areas, said Shah Mohmoud Naeemi, a Farah provincial council member, which came close to falling to insurgents last year.

The Taliban took control of several positions in civilian areas, including a school, although senior security officials in Kabul said Farah was still under government control.

On Thursday, a Taliban suicide blast killed at least 10 civilians and two NATO soldiers near the headquarters of Afghanistan’s international military force and the US embassy in Kabul.

A senior Afghan human rights officer was killed after being kidnapped in a separate incident Afghan security officials blame on the Taliban.

Abdul Samad Amiri, acting head of the Independent Human Rights Commission for Ghor province, was kidnapped while travelling from Kabul. His body was found on Thursday.

The Taliban have not immediately commented on the killing, which rights group Amnesty International condemned as a “war crime”.

“Even as the Taliban claim to be pursuing peace, it continues to kill in the most gruesome way,” Samira Hamidi, its South Asia researcher, said in a statement.

“This tragedy underscores the grave dangers human rights defenders in Afghanistan face.”

The Taliban control or influence roughly half of Afghanistan and are said to be at their strongest since the United States invaded in 2001 and overthrew government.

Insurgent groups continue to negotiate with the United States and demand all foreign forces leave.

The United States ended its combat role in 2014, although 20 000 US and NATO forces remain. They train and support Afghan troops fighting the Taliban who fear being left vulnerable if the United States leaves.