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Afghan Taliban Threatens To Seize Three Districts In Helmand Province

Afghan security forces patrolling a village in Helmand in October 2015.

Reports from southwestern Afghanistan say the Taliban is threatening on January 19 to capture three key strategic districts in Helmand Province.

The fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has stoked concerns about recent gains by the militants in their traditional homeland.

The provincial police chief, Abdul Rahman Sarjang, told reporters that the government in Kabul has sent reinforcements to the districts of Gereshk, Sangin, and Marjeh -- all near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

The districts are all close to the Helmand River and are centers of opium cultivation.

The Taliban, which draws funds from the illegal opium trade, has stepped up its pressure on security forces there since the withdrawal of international forces from combat in 2015.

Reports say that some of the fighting in the area on January 19 was just a few hundred meters from the main highway that links the southern city of Kandahar with the Western city of Herat.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP