Afghan officials say Taliban militants captured a district in northern Afghanistan after hours of fighting with government forces amid a recent surge in violence as the United States begins to pull its forces from the war-torn country.
The insurgents seized the district of Baraka in the northern province of Baghlan after Afghan forces retreated on May 5 due to a lack of equipment, district chief Mohammad Shirzad told RFE/RL.
A spokesman for the provincial police said the Taliban suffered heavy losses in the fighting.
At least 10 security forces were killed and 16 others captured by the militant group, according to an unidentified senior security official.
Elsewhere in the province, officials said the Taliban overran an Afghan National Army outpost on a highway after hours of fighting, killing nine soldiers.
Baghlan has for years been one of the most volatile provinces in the north of the country.
Although the United States did not meet a May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed in talks with the Taliban last year, it did begin to pull its forces on that date after President Joe Biden announced all troops will be out by September 11.
The decision was criticized by some, who argue that the Taliban will sweep back into power.
The Afghan government says it has recorded dozens of Taliban attacks on security forces and other government installations in many provinces over the past few days.
Outside the capital, Kabul, one person was reported killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a vehicle carrying medical workers on May 5.
Meanwhile, officials said the Afghan military was repelling a major Taliban offensive in the southern province of Helmand that has displaced thousands of people.
Heavy U.S. air strikes against insurgent positions “stopped them from advancing toward Lashkar Gah," said Atiqullah, a local government official, referring to the provincial capital.
The head of the provincial council, Attaullah Afghan, said Taliban fighters had made advances but government troops had "retaken some of these areas."
A U.S. defense official was cited as saying air support was backing government forces in Helmand and other provinces.