TAKHAR, AFGHANISTAN - Taliban insurgents captured a district called Darqad in northern Afghanistan’s Takhar province early Wednesday.
Abdul Khalil Aseer, a spokesman for Takhar's police, said the Taliban took control of the district center at 5 a.m. local time.
Darqad district is located on the banks of the Oxus River, on the border with Tajikistan.
Six members of the Afghan security forces were killed in the fighting, said Sonatullah Taimor, spokesman for the provincial governor.
The area around Darqad is not one where there have been reports of major damage or loss of life from Monday's earthquake, which killed more than 300 people across broad swaths of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it is well within the impact zone, and at least 15 people have been reported killed and more than 40 injured in Takhar province as a whole.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid emailed media organizations to say the battle for Darqad began at dawn Wednesday. Two Taliban fighters were killed, he said, as the insurgents captured government buildings, including police headquarters.
The Taliban also claimed to have killed 12 Afghan policemen during the fight.
Afghan officials say the Taliban have joined with other insurgents, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and are spreading across the north with the aim of infiltrating Central Asian states.
In late September, this combined force took control of the capital of northern Kunduz province, also called Kunduz, and held it for three days before Afghan forces launched a counteroffensive.
The audacity of that attack took the Kabul government by surprise and highlighted weaknesses in intelligence and military organization nine months after international combat forces led by the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan.
The Taliban, responsible for thousands of deaths since launching its insurgency after its regime was toppled in a 2001 U.S. invasion, issued a statement Tuesday saying its fighters would help in the rescue and relief efforts in the earthquake-hit areas.
In the meantime, the Afghan Defense Ministry said Afghan forces on Tuesday captured Dasht-e-Archi district in the northeastern part of Kunduz province.
The statement sent to the media by the Second Brigade of the Afghan National Army said the sweeping operation resulted in the killing of 15 Taliban members, including Mullah Abdul Rahim, the deputy district governor for Dasht-e-Archi.
The statement said Afghan forces captured the police headquarters. The Taliban had destroyed the district center and police headquarters when it captured the district, the statement said, adding that Afghan security forces sustained no casualties.
VOA's Afghan service contributed to this report.