Airstrikes pummel Taliban in south; insurgents gain in north

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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.

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's are all located near the radio and television station.

In northern Afghanistan, the Taliban took 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.

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.

The Associated Press

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