ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Heavy clashes have erupted in southern Afghanistan, after Taliban rebels staged a coordinated assault on a district center.
Afghan officials and insurgents have made conflicting claims about Monday’s fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand, the largest of the 34 Afghan provinces.
Provincial government spokesman Omar Zwak told VOA insurgents assaulted multiple security outposts, but Afghan forces repulsed the Taliban. He claimed many assailants were killed and wounded, but would not say whether government forces also suffered casualties.
A Taliban spokesman claimed insurgents overran more than 25 outposts and bases around Sangin, saying intense fighting continued in the area.
He said a Taliban suicide bomber struck a military compound before insurgents stormed the area and killed or wounded more than 100 Afghan forces. The insurgent group often issues inflated casualty tolls for government forces.
The Taliban dug a tunnel near a military compound taking advantage of surrounding civilian houses and packed it with explosives before detonating it to begin the assault, Afghan regional corps commander, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai told VOA.
Most of Helmand is under the control of the Taliban. The government fully controls only the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and a few surrounding district centers.
The United States has announced it would deploy a new group of around 300 troops to Helmand later this year to help Afghan forces defend the city and beat back the Taliban during the spring fighting season.