Airstrikes Pummel Taliban in South 08/05 06:19
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Afghan air force carried out more airstrikes
against Taliban positions in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, as the insurgent
force made additional gains in the country's north.
The European Union, United Nations and Human Rights Watch urged both sides
to avoid causing civilian casualties as the fighting rages on. The Taliban has
been on the offensive in recent months, as U.S. and NATO forces complete their
pullout from the war-torn country. They have taken vast swaths of land and have
now turned their guns on larger urban centers.
A defense ministry statement said air strikes were carried out across the
country, including in the southern Helmand province, where the provincial
capital of Lashkar Gah is being fiercely contested. The Taliban control of nine
of the city's 10 police districts.
Residents in Lashkar Gah reported heavy bombing near the government radio
and television station, which is under Taliban control. Several wedding halls
and a guesthouse of the provincial governor are located near the radio and
The fighting has driven thousands of people from Kandahar and Helmand
provinces in the south to seek refuge in Kandahar city, which is under siege by
the Taliban. Government forces control only three of Kandahar province's 17
The battle for the city remains at stalemate despite days of ground and air
operations. Most of the markets are closed, and people in the four displacement
camps lack proper access to water under a scorching sun.
In northern Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken control of most of the
provincial capital of Sar-e-Pul, the head of its council, Mohammad Noor Rahmani
said. In recent months, the group has gained control of dozens of districts
across several provinces in the north.
Meanwhile, Jawzjan province in the north remains under a three-month Taliban
attack. The stronghold of Marshal Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord, it has lost
eight out of ten districts to the insurgents, who continue to advance on the
capital, Shibirghan city.
The Taliban onslaught seems to have intensified with the start of the final
withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops in late April. As attacks intensify, Afghan
security forces and government troops have retaliated with increasing air
strikes, aided by the United States. This has raised growing concerns about
civilian casualties across the country.
"We can tell you that we are deeply concerned about the safety and
protection of people in Lashkar Gah, in the south, where tens of thousands of
people could be trapped by fighting," Stephane Dujarric, the United Nations
spokesman said on Wednesday.
"We, along with our humanitarian partners in Afghanistan, are assessing
needs and responding in the south, as access allows," he said.
People living in urban centers have stared a campaign in support of Afghan
forces and saying no to violence in country shouting "Allahu Akbar" God is
great starting from western Herat and continues to different other provinces.