KANDAHAR (AFP) – Afghan forces battled the Taliban for control of a key provincial capital Tuesday, as the United Nations warned “indiscriminate” gunfire and air strikes were hurting civilians the most.
Officials said militants had seized more than a dozen local radio and TV stations in Lashkar Gah -- capital of Helmand province and the scene of days of fierce fighting -- leaving only one pro-Taliban channel.
In Herat, another city under siege, hundreds of residents chanted slogans from their rooftops after government forces repulsed the latest Taliban assault.
The militant group has seized control of much of rural Afghanistan since early May, but is meeting resistance as they try to take provincial capitals.
That urban fighting, however, is taking its toll on civilians.
“Taliban ground offensive & ANA air strikes causing most harm,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted Tuesday, referring to the Afghan national army.
“Deep concerns about indiscriminate shooting & damage to/occupation of health facilities & civilian homes.”
“Fighting was intense this morning,” said Sefatullah, director of Sukon radio in Helmand’s capital, whose station was captured by the Taliban.
The loss of Lashkar Gah would be a massive strategic and psychological blow for the government, which has pledged to defend cities at all costs after losing much of the rural countryside to the Taliban over the summer.
In Herat, Afghan officials said government forces had managed to push back the militants from several areas of the city -- including near the airport, which is vital for resupplies.
“Afghan security forces plus resistance forces launched a big operation in west of the city,” Jailani Farhad, spokesman for Herat’s governor, told AFP.