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Conflicting Accounts Of Fighting In Afghan City Near Iran

Residents look at an Army vehicle destroyed in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban in Farah city on May 16.
Residents look at an Army vehicle destroyed in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban in Farah city on May 16.

Residents, officials, and the governor of a restive western Afghan province have offered conflicting accounts of a fresh push by the Taliban to overrun the provincial capital after Kabul claimed to have defeated an offensive to overrun the city.

Abdul Basir Salangi, the governor of Farah, rejected reports that the Taliban militants have launched a fresh attack to recapture the provincial capital, also called Farah.

“Last night, the various units of Afghan forces exchanged fire because of a misunderstanding,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on May 17. “The city of Farah is completely secured, and our forces are searching all houses as part of a cleanup operation. We have defeated the Taliban everywhere.”

But lawmakers, Farah residents, and other officials have painted a different picture. They say insurgent fighters emerged from hiding to attack the government forces.

“Last night [May 16], the Taliban began their attack around 11 p.m. They targeted my personal guesthouse, the police headquarters, and the local prison,” Farid Bakhtawar, a member of Farah’s provincial council, told Radio Free Afghanistan on May 17.

"From one side there were Taliban, and from the other side war planes [are] firing from the air. People were terrified," Qudratullah, a shopkeeper in the city, told Reuters about the fighting overnight.

Another resident, Baz Mohammad, said that "the city has been turned into a military zone, people are worried, and shops are closed."

Farah city police chief Fazel Ahmad Sherzad also confirmed the fighting overnight.

"A number of Taliban clashed with Afghan forces in different parts of the city," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “Right now there is no fighting, but a search and clearance operation is under way."

On May 15, hundreds of Taliban fighters overran several security checkpoints around Farah city. They later captured parts of the capital, according to provincial lawmakers.

But by the next day an Afghan government counteroffensive supported by NATO air power had pushed the Taliban out of Farah city.

Salangi claimed on May 16 that more than 300 Taliban fighters had been killed in the fighting while 25 government troops also died.

“Right now there is no fighting anywhere,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on May 17.

For months, sparsely populated Farah, a vast and remote rural province, has witnessed heavy fighting. Elite Afghan commandoes, units of the Afghan Army, and the police have endured heavy casualties in constant Taliban attacks.

-- With reporting by Reuters

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