Afghan Forces 'Push Back Taliban' From Western City Of Farah

Afghan commandoes and the US air force have driven the Taliban to the outskirts of the western provincial capital of Farah officials said Wednesday

Taliban insurgents launched attacks from multiple directions on the capital of Farah province in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran early Tuesday, killing and wounding "dozens" of security forces, a local official said.

Separately, in eastern Ghazni province, at least 14 policemen were killed, including a district deputy police chief, after Taliban fighters launched attacks on their checkpoints, said Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Salangi said at least 25 government troops were killed.

Mr. Khan, the Farah resident, said that the insurgents mostly left homes and businesses alone, but that they did burn several cafes that served alcohol, leaving notes warning their owners against doing so.

Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warplanes also took part in the battle.

The Taliban claimed the assault on Farah in statement to media, saying they had attacked from multiple directions.

It was the first Taliban assault on a provincial capital this year after it announced the start of its annual spring offensive last month and formally rejected Afghan government peace initiatives.

Clashes between militants and security forces forced Farah residents to close shops and businesses.

A resident, who wished to go unnamed, said the rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department. He said Afghan forces established additional checkpoints to provide security.

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The NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul said in a statement the city remained under government control and US A-10 attack aircraft were supporting Afghan forces in defending it.

Samihullah Samim, a lawmaker from Farah, said parts of the city are under Taliban control, with heavy fighting underway just 300 metres from the governor's residence.

Reinforcements including commando units as well as the Afghan air force were battling Taliban fighters around the city, he said.

"NDS forces in their headquarters are engaged in heavy clashes with the Taliban".

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

Another provincial council member, Dadullah Qani, confirmed Hissaini's comments, the sound of gunfire and explosions audible as he spoke to an AFP reporter by telephone.

Many radio and television channels in the province have stopped broadcasting, fearing for their employees' lives, according to media watchdog Nai. Despite the pressure of greatly stepped-up USA and Afghan airstrikes, the Taliban have shown little interest in the Afghan government's offer of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Farah is a poppy-growing province in an isolated region of Afghanistan. There are plans for a section of the multi-billion-dollar TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline to traverse it. Kunduz was subsequently retaken by the government both times.

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