Taliban claim control of western Afghan city Farah

Kabul, Afghanistan: The Taliban claimed to have captured the capital of the western Afghan province of Farah on Tuesday, after an insurgent attack that began in the dead of night and forced the province governor to flee the city.

Farah, one of the largest cities in the western region, is the first to be overrun by the Taliban in two years.

An Afghan policeman stands guard in Kandahar southern of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Government officials and their US military backers vowed that the authorities would quickly oust the insurgents. Local officials said Governor Basir Salangi remained in the province at a military base a few kilometres outside the city.

Only the governor's compound remained in government hands after a long day of fighting, which continued into the next night, according to numerous residents and some local officials, as well as Taliban insurgents.

The fighting was part of a recent increase in the tempo of attacks, since the Taliban's announcement of a spring offensive late in April and their explicit rejection of Afghan government peace initiatives.

A senior Afghan police official, reached by telephone inside Farah city, described the government's situation as "out of control" and predicted the insurgents would renew their offensive under cover of dark, when air support was less effective against them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was contradicting official government reports.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, issued a statement late on Tuesday afternoon on WhatsApp messaging groups claiming that the insurgents had taken "most parts of Farah city". He said that three senior Afghan security officers were among dozens killed in the insurgents' assault, which government officials denied.

Afghan officials confirmed that a district police chief in Farah died of his wounds on Tuesday, but they denied claims that the deputy provincial police chief had also died, saying he was critically wounded. Other claims were exaggerated, officials said.

"They kill one, and they claim three," said General Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.

The US military said in a statement that it had A-10 warplanes over the city, which it claimed "remains under government control". Those aircraft are generally used for close support of troops, but the statement did not clarify whether they were joining Afghan military helicopters in bombing the Taliban.

New York Times

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