ISLAMABAD - Deadly clashes were raging Sunday in northern Afghanistan where Taliban insurgents have seized a key district, but lost control of another to Afghan national security forces. Meanwhile, the United Nations condemned the overnight killing of 19 Afghan civilians in a roadside blast in a southern province.
Authorities in northern Kunduz province said the Taliban has established control of the key Chardara district and Afghan security forces were battling the insurgents to halt their advances on the provincial capital.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told VOA the Taliban’s advancement was “temporary” and the insurgent group was not capable of holding the district for long. "Afghan police and troops have launched a counteroffensive to retake Chardara," he added.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed its fighters killed 24 Afghan police and troops before they seized control of Chardara. He added that the Taliban has also captured as many as 25 Afghan troops.
But security officials disputed the Taliban claims, saying no more than 12 members of the national security forces had been killed.
Meanwhile, Interior ministry spokesman Sidiqqi said Afghan forces flushed Taliban insurgents out of the northeastern Yamgan district early Sunday. He said more than 120 Taliban fighters, including foreigners, were killed in the heavy fighting or the control of Yamgan.
The district in northwestern province of Badakhshan, which borders China and Tajikistan, had fallen to the Taliban nearly three weeks ago.
On Sunday, the United Nations condemned the overnight killing of 19 civilians, mostly women and children in a roadside bomb in the southern province of Helmand. The victims were fleeing violent clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants in the Marja district when their minibus hit an improvised explosive device or IED.
In its statement, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said, “It is an outrage that explosive devices continue to be planted in areas where the likelihood of civilian death and injury is high.”
The Taliban has not commented on the deadly bombing, but the insurgent group admits it plants roadside bombs to target convoys of Afghan security forces.
UNAMA urged parties to the conflict to ensure the safe passage of civilians fleeing the fighting and immediately cease the use of indiscriminate weapons . It has already documented 16 percent rise in civilian casualties in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period last year.
The current summer fighting season in Afghanistan is the first time that national security forces are battling the Taliban insurgency without the NATO-led coalition forces that withdrew from the country in December. A small residual foreign force remains to advise, train and assist the Afghan police and military.