ISLAMABAD - A pre-dawn Taliban attack has killed a district governor and seven police personnel in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Ghazni.
The fighting came as the United Nations cautioned the number of conflict-related civilian casualties in the first three months of 2018 remained at the same high level recorded last year.
Officials in Ghzani said scores of heavily armed insurgents participated in Thursday’s coordinated assault on the governor’s office in Khawaja Omari and they overran the district center.
Provincial police chief Mohammad Zaman told VOA the timely arrival of reinforcements and air support enabled Afghan forces to push Taliban assailants out of the area early in the day, following hours of intense clashes.
Local authorities said the counter offensive also killed 27 Taliban rebels. They identified the slain district governor as Ali Dost Shams.
A Taliban spokesman claimed more than 20 government police personnel and officers were killed in the attack, confirming only three insurgent fatalities.
Insurgents often issue inflate battlefield claims.
But Afghan media quoted unnamed sources as saying the insurgent attack left 15 security personnel dead, including area police and intelligence chiefs.
Khawaja Omari was until now considered one of the safest districts in the troubled province and it is located close to the provincial capital, also called Ghanzi.
Provincial officials said the Taliban has assaulted two districts in Ghanzi this week, but failed to capture them because of a strong response from Afghan forces there.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, noted Thursday in its quarterly report the armed conflict has caused nearly 2,260 civilian casualties, including 763 deaths, this year.
The figures reflected similar levels of civilian harm documented in the first three months of 2017 and 2016, the mission said and it reiterated calls for all parties to the Afghan conflict to protect civilians from harm.
UNAMA says in 2017 there were more than 10,000 civilian casualties, including about 3,500 fatalities.
Unlike previous years, suicide improvised explosive devices (IED) and “complex” insurgent attacks were the leading cause of civilian casualties, UNAMA noted. It blamed anti-government groups for causing 1,500 civilian casualties, including 551 fatalities, showing a six percent increase from the same period in 2017.
Fighting intensifies in Afghanistan with the advent of spring. There are fears of more bloodshed this this year as the Taliban has still not responded to an offer of unconditional peace talks the Afghan government announced on February 28.