GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Hundreds of Taleban fighters have stormed a strategic district in an Afghan province not far from the capital, killing dozens of people in five days of fighting and they could capture the area, officials said on Friday.
The Ghazni provincial govern-ment has lost contact with police in the province’s western district of Ajrestan, said Asadullah Safi, deputy police chief of the area.
Ghazni is southwest of the capital. The main highway linking Kabul to southern Afghanistan, where the Taleban have been making advances in recent months, passes through the province.
“If there is no urgent help from the central government, the district will collapse,” Safi said.
The battle for Ajrestan illustrates the grave challenges facing Afgha-nistan’s new president and the security forces in holding territory as foreign combat troops prepare to leave at the end of the year.
No longer pinned down by US air cover, Taleban fighters are attac-king Afghan military posts in large numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground.
Heavy fighting was continuing in Ajrestan on Friday.
Safi said a suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint early in the day before provincial authorities completely lost contact with the district.
The attack by an estimated 700 Taleban fighters began about five days ago and early reports were that more than 100 people had been killed, including 15 who were beheaded by the militants, said provincial deputy governor Ahmadullah Ahmadi.