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At Least 16 Killed In Attacks Across Afghanistan As Taliban Takes Over Eastern District

Afghan security forces patrol the outskirts of Helmand.

Afghan officials say at least 16 people have been killed in separate attacks across the war-torn country.

At least nine people, including women and children, were reported killed in a roadside bomb explosion in the southern province of Helmand on May 20.

Provincial police spokesman Zaman Hamdarad said three wounded children were taken to hospital.

In the central province of Ghor, a roadside bombing struck a motorcycle carrying a family of four, killing all of them, said provincial Governor Abdul Zahir Faizzada.

Meanwhile, militants shot and killed three civilians who were traveling on a bus from the regional capital, also called Ghor, to the neighboring province of Herat. Officials said the militants stopped the bus and forced the three men to leave the vehicle before killing them.

Local officials said the three men were members of the Shi’ite Hazara minority, which has been frequently targeted by Sunni militant groups like the Taliban and Islamic State (IS).

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came as the Taliban seized control of a district center in the eastern province of Laghman, adding to a string a recent gains.

Dawlat Shah, a remote district in Laghman, had been besieged by the Taliban for at least a month, provincial officials Atiqullah Abdul Rahimzai and Gulzar Sangarwal said.

The Afghan Army had been trying for more than a week to get reinforcements and supplies to the trapped government forces in the district, but those efforts were thwarted by the Taliban.

In the end, an evacuation of government forces was arranged with the Taliban through the mediation of local tribal elders, according to the officials. There were no casualties.

Taliban fighters were also engaged in fierce battles with government forces in another district, Ali Shang, adding to the concerns about the overall security situation in the largely rural Laghman Province.

The Taliban last week took over a strategic district in central province of Wardak, close to Kabul. A few days earlier the Taliban overran a district in northern province of Baghlan.

Militants have stepped up attacks on provincial capitals, district centers, and larger security bases following the start on May 1 of the international military withdrawal, which is due to be completed by September 11.

Intra-Afghan peace efforts have stalled since the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban last year began talks in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The U.S. and NATO pullout will be a major test for Afghan security forces, with U.S. generals and other officials voicing concerns in recent weeks that it might lead to the collapse of the Afghan government in the absence of progress on stalled peace talks with the Taliban.

With reporting by dpa, TOLOnews, and AP
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