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Taliban Overruns Second Provincial City As Afghan Government Forces Retreat

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Private militiamen patrol the streets following fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces in Herat Province on August 6.

A senior police official in Jawzjan Province told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi on August 7 that the Taliban has seized Sheberghan, the capital of the province, after reports of heavy fighting in and around the city.

Another Jawzjan police official told Radio Azadi that the Taliban had set fire to the palace of warlord and longtime foe of the militant group Abdul Rashid Dostum in Sheberghan and the Jawzjan provincial office building. The officials spoke to Radio Azadi on condition of anonymity.

Afghan security forces in Sheberghan retreated to the airport and the Jangalbagh area near the city, one of the police officials said.

Jawzjan Deputy Governor Abdul Qadir Malia said security forces were trying to retake Sheberghan in a series of clearing operations. Malia said the Taliban had launched attacks on the city from four directions just before midday.

Sheberghan, Jawzjan Province, Afghanistan
Sheberghan, Jawzjan Province, Afghanistan


Dostum was in Kabul, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani on August 7 in an attempt to persuade him to fly in reinforcements, aides to Dostum told the AFP news agency.

A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry told Radio Azadi previously that the Taliban had entered some areas of the city, but reinforcements had arrived, adding that the Taliban had suffered heavy losses.

A Taliban spokesman told Radio Azadi earlier on August 7 that the militants had captured the city and that facilities such as the governor’s office, the police headquarters, and the intelligence service’s building were under Taliban control.

The Taliban claims could not be immediately verified.

There were also reports of significant fighting overnight near Kunduz, the capital of Kunduz Province; Taloquan, the capital of Takhar Province; and Faiz Abad, the capital of Badakhshan Province.

Government sources told Radio Azadi that Taliban attacks had been repelled near all three cities and that the militants suffered heavy casualties.

The previous day, Taliban militants captured Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz Province. Local officials said the town of around 31,000 people fell without a fight.

Taliban militants shot dead the head of the government’s Information and Media Center in Kabul the same day.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a separate killing in a Kabul district -- the bombing death of an Afghan Air Force pilot on August 7.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Muhajid said in a statement quoted by Reuters that the Taliban had carried out the attack.

The pilot, Hamidullah Azimi, died when a sticky bomb attached to his vehicle went off. The blast also injured five civilians. Azimi had been trained in flying U.S.-made UH60 Black Hawk helicopters, and had been working with the Afghan Air Force for almost four years, Afghan Air Force Commander Abdul Fatah Eshaqzai told Reuters.

He had moved to Kabul with his family one year ago due to security threats, Eshaqzai added.

In New York, the UN Security Council discussed the security situation in Afghanistan, with UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, expressing doubt about the Taliban’s commitment to a political settlement.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the prospect of a protracted civil war in Afghanistan "is a stark reality."

Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified since May 1, when the United States and other countries officially began withdrawing their forces in a pullout that is expected to be completed this month.

Britain warned its citizens on August 6 to leave Afghanistan immediately as the security situation in the country continues to deteriorate.

This story includes reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by AP Reuters, and AFP
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