KABUL (Dispatches) – Taliban militants struck Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan with at least three rockets overnight, the group’s spokesman said on Sunday, adding that the aim was to thwart air strikes conducted by Afghan government forces.
“Kandahar airport was targeted by us because the enemy was using it as a center to conduct air strikes against us,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told Reuters.
Airport chief Massoud Pashtun also confirmed that the airport was hit with three rockets overnight.
Afghan government officials said the rocket attacks forced authorities to suspend all flights and that the runway was partially damaged. There were no immediate reports of casualties, they said.
Officials said the Taliban see Kandahar as a major strategic point, which they seem to be using as a control center for gaining complete dominance over five other provinces.
Clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants have intensified in the cities of Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province.
The Taliban now control more than 200 of the country’s 419 district centers, according to reports.
In the west, Afghan officials said Taliban commanders were swiftly gaining control of strategic buildings around Herat city, forcing civilians to remain in their homes.
On the city’s outskirts, government forces also targeted Taliban positions with airstrikes overnight.
Herat provincial governor’s spokesman Jailani Farhad said that around 100 militant fighters were killed in the attacks.
Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said hundreds of reinforcements arrived in the city on Sunday morning.
Four days of fighting forced scores of families to flee their homes and seek shelter closer to the heart of the city.
In the meantime, authorities in the southern city of Lashkar Gah called for more troops to rein in the assaults.
Violence surged across Afghanistan after the United States failed to meet a May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal of its forces from the country, under a deal it had reached with the Taliban last year.
The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.
The invasion, which has led to the longest war in U.S. history, has left the nation “poor, aid-dependent, and conflict-affected,” according to the latest report submitted to the U.S. Congress.
In another scourge, the death toll from this week’s flooding in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nuristan has risen to at least 113, with dozens of people still missing, officials said.
Rescue operations were still under way on Sunday, days after heavy rains overwhelmed Kamdesh district in the remote, Taliban-controlled province, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the capital, Kabul, on Wednesday.
Abdul Samai Zarbi, spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), told dpa news agency more than 170 houses had been either “partially or completely” destroyed, affecting about 300 families.
While he gave an injury toll of 34, Zarbi noted figures were preliminary and subject to change.