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Fighting in Afghanistan's North Disrupts Kabul's Power Supply

Baghlan province, Afghanistan
Baghlan province, Afghanistan

Fresh fighting in northern Afghanistan has disrupted the electric supply to Kabul and several provinces for the second time in less than three weeks.

The hostilities come as the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Saturday launched a long-delayed voters' registration process for parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for October 20.

A provincial police spokesman told VOA that a team of technicians from the state-owned electricity department has arrived in the Baghlan province to assess the damage and carry out the repair work, but heavy fighting prevented them from reaching the site in Dushi district.

Officials said the overnight destruction of the electricity tower plunged a vast area into darkness, including much of the Afghan capital, a city of more than 5 million people.Residents and businesses in Kabul said Saturday they were relying on private generators to run critical operations.

Transmission lines passing through Baghlan are used to import about 300 megawatts of electricity from neighboring Central Asian states of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The Taliban controls or contests several districts in the Afghan province and routinely launches attacks on security forces in government-controlled areas.

Last month, insurgents also had blown up a major electricity tower in the Kelagai area of Baghlan, cutting the power supply to Kabul and many Afghan provinces for several days.

The Taliban had justified their action at the time, saying the government was blocking supply of electricity to insurgent-controlled areas.

Separately, officials confirmed Saturday that an overnight Taliban attack in the western city of Farah killed at least seven Afghan soldiers and wounded several others.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday repeated his offer of peace talks for the Taliban and invited them to register as a political group to join the parliamentary elections for seeking resolution of their disagreements.

Ghani spoke shortly after launching the voters' registration process at the presidential place in Kabul. The two-months long exercise will enable the country to create for the first time in its history formal voters' lists — a move likely to address allegations of fraud and rigging, according to Afghan officials.

"We have placed before the Taliban a clear and comprehensive peace plan.If they believe in the betterment of the Afghan nation they should accept it and come to contest the elections," said the president.

Ghani was referring to his offer of unconditional peace talk she announced in February at an international conference in Kabul. His initiative received widespread domestic and international backing.

The Taliban so far has not publicly offered any reaction to the peace overture, however, and instead has intensified battlefield attacks across Afghanistan.