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Government Forces, Taliban Battling In Remote Afghan Provincial Capital


FILE: Taliban fighters in the western province of Farah

Afghan and NATO warplanes have bombed Taliban positions after insurgents attacked Farah city, the capital of Farah Province in western Afghanistan, close to the Iranian border, Afghan officials say.

The attack -- the first major assault targeting a provincial capital since the Taliban announced its annual spring offensive -- began when several security checkpoints were overrun after midnight, with the militants capturing one urban district and parts of another, according to provincial-council member Jamila Amini.

"Heavy fighting continues inside the city and aircraft have just started bombing Taliban positions," Amini told the media by telephone from inside the city.

Special police forces from Kandahar and commandos from Herat had also been deployed in Farah, Afghan officials said.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell told RFE/RL that the city "remains under [Afghan] government control."

The Afghan National Defense and Security forces supported by U.S. forces in Afghanistan air power are on the offensive against the Taliban," he added.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the Afghan air force was also taking part in the battle.

At least 10 insurgents and two members of the security forces had been killed so far, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmnish said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mujahid said Taliban fighters launched a multipronged attack and overran a large number of checkpoints belonging to Afghan security forces in the city.

Farah Province has been a key battleground for the Taliban for months. It borders Helmand Province, where the militants control several districts.

Violence has spiked in Afghanistan since the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive last month.

But the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said on May 11 that the Taliban "cannot win militarily."

"The message I would send to the Taliban is that they cannot win militarily. The international coalition, led by the United States, is focused on providing the military pressure, in conjunction with social pressure and diplomatic pressure that will force them to come to the table," Votel said during a visit to Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

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