KABUL (Dispatches) – Taliban militants have seized three districts over the past weeks amid increasing tension in war-torn Afghanistan, local media reported.
In its latest attempt to gain ground, the Taliban militants overran Jalriz district in eastern Wardak province and Dawlat Shah district in Laghman province.
The Taliban militants also captured Burka district in northern Baghlan province early in May in the wake of fierce fighting.
Security officials said that the security forces have made “tactical retreat” from the said areas.
Spokesman for the Defense Ministry Rohullah Ahmadzai in talks with local media on Monday accused the Taliban of using civilians as human shields and planting mines in the areas to slow down the security forces’ advance.
Justifying the “tactical retreat” as part of war strategy, Ahmadzai said that the security forces are capable enough to evict the militants from the areas, noting protecting civilians and cleaning mines take time.
Fierce fighting erupted late Sunday on the edge of Mihtarlam, a city of around 140,000 people and the capital of Laghman province.
At one point Defense Minister Yasin Zia took personal charge in the field, officials said.
“With the arrival of reinforcements, the enemy has sustained heavy blows,” Zia, a former army chief of staff, said in a video message.
The ministry said at least 50 Taliban militants were killed in overnight fighting.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the militants captured 37 security checkpoints on the outskirts of the city.
Casualty figures and battlefield gains can rarely be independently verified in Afghanistan and both sides frequently exaggerate their successes and minimize losses.
An AFP correspondent reported fighting continuing in some parts of Mihtarlam on Monday, adding that hundreds of people had been displaced.
A student from Mihtarlam, who gave just his first name Zabihullah, said he went to school after government forces assured him they had control, but had to flee when fighting resumed.
“I’m not sure which part of the city is safe now,” he told AFP.
The attack on Mihtarlam comes as the Taliban push on in efforts to capture new territory.