Taliban captures district in northern Afghan province

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KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — Taliban militants seized control of Khan Abad district in Afghanistan’s northern province of Kunduz on Saturday as sporadic clashes were continuing around the district center, officials said.

“Dozens of armed militants overrun the district bazaar early Saturday morning. They also stormed the district center and seized government office buildings after security forces made a tactical retreat to outer sides of the district after dawn,” a provincial security source told Xinhua anonymously.

The district is located some 25 km east of the provincial capital of Kunduz city. A main highway connecting Kunduz to the neighboring Takhar province passes through the district.

“The provincial security officials were meeting to prepare for a counterattack. The security forces will soon kick the militants out from Khan Abad,” Qudratullah Safi, district executive officer, told Xinhua.

Zabiullah Mujahi, a purported Taliban spokesman, twitted that Taliban also seized weapons and security forces’ vehicles after capturing security checkpoints following Saturday’s clashes.

He said the Taliban also overran several troops’ security posts in the neighboring Ali Abad district.

The Kunduz province and neighboring Baghlan and Takhar provinces have been the scene of heavy clashes over the past couple of months as Taliban has been trying to challenge the government forces in the once relatively peaceful region.

The Kunduz city has been facing a severe power cut since Thursday when several electricity towers were destroyed during the clashes. The destroyed power pylons had been transmitting imported electricity from neighboring country of Tajikistan, according to officials.

The militants seized Dahna-e-Ghori district of Baghlan after a coordinated offensive earlier this month.

In Kabul, one army soldier was killed and another officer was wounded after a roadside bombing struck an army vehicle in Qala-e-Zaman Khan locality of the city earlier on Saturday.

The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since early April when the militant group launched its annual rebel offensive in different places of the country, which had claimed hundreds of lives including militants, security personnel and civilians.