ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Intense fighting has broken out in several Afghan provinces over the last few days, with government forces and their Taliban foes each claiming to have inflicted heavy casualties. Afghan security troops also have been battling Islamic State militants.
In eastern Nangarhar province, a local official said security forces killed at least 32 insurgents and wounded 54 others in recent skirmishes. Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, said two Afghan policemen were killed and 13 were wounded.
The Taliban sent a countering claim to the media, saying they besieged the province's strategic Hesarak district and killed up to 30 Afghan security personnel. Local residents said the Taliban at one point managed to capture several police checkpoints.
Khogyani also said the security forces have killed approximately 225 Islamic State fighters during the last week in an ongoing battle in Nangarhar’s Kot district, adding that 20 policemen and civilians were also killed. He confirmed that Islamic State militants burned 40 houses while briefly controlling parts of the district but said government forces had cleared the militants from 45 villages in a continuing operation.
Meanwhile, in Maidan Vardak, a province slightly west of Nangarhar, authorities claimed Afghan security forces have repulsed a big offensive Thursday night against a military base formerly used by the United States forces.
Abdul Rahman Mangal, the provincial governor’s office spokesman, said insurgents captured at least two base entrances before being pushed back by Afghan forces. Afghan officials have sent reinforcements to the area, anticipating another offensive between Friday and Saturday night.
The highway linking Kabul to Bamyan province and skirting Maidan Varadak remained open as of Friday, though traffic was light. Most travelers opted for the longer but relatively safer route through the Parwan province.
Health workers abducted
In central Afghanistan, three health workers reportedly were abducted Thursday in Sar e Pol province, after returning from inspecting a health clinic under construction in Balkhab district.
Zabihullah Amani, the provincial governor’s spokesman, told VOA that all three were locals. One was an official of the Sar e Pol provincial health directorate. The other two represented the World Health Organization and the Bakhtar Development Network (BDN), an Afghan NGO.
No one has asserted responsibility for the abductions, though the Taliban is suspected. Police officials said mediation is taking place between local elders and Taliban seeking the three workers’ release.