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Police, Taliban In Fierce Fighting In South Afghanistan

Afghan officials inspect the scene of a suicide bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province on March 19.

Fierce clashes have broken out between Afghan police and Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan.

A local official, who requested anonymity, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that the militants attacked police checkpoints overnight in the Gereshk district of Helmand Province.

Another unidentified official said the gunbattle was still under way hours later.

Officials said there were casualties but it was unclear how many.

Helmand provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail said district police chief Hikmatullah Akmal was killed by a roadside bomb.

Malakhail said the explosion occurred early on April 2 as Akmal was heading toward the site of a the Taliban attack on a checkpoint.

A major military operation is underway to drive Taliban militants from the Helmand River valley.

The Taliban and other militant groups often target Afghan officials and members of the security forces.

U.S. and NATO forces formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but about 9,800 U.S. troops remain.

With reporting by AP and Reuters