Published: Thu, March 23, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Taliban seize key battleground in south Afghanistan

Taliban seize key battleground in south Afghanistan

The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and USA troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents' year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.

He said the area had been bombarded by foreign forces following the withdrawal of Afghan troops and police, causing heavy damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The district's police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.

Sangin has witnessed numerous heavy clashes over the past few months and insurgents have carried out ongoing attacks against military bases and police headquarters.

Afghan security forces are now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many troops would be involved. The worldwide military coalition controlled it starting in 2013, but Taliban forces took control this week.

"We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district", he said.

He said that the assailant, who may have been linked with the Taliban, fled after taking weapons and other equipment.

In the north, an insider attack at a security checkpoint left nine officers dead, when an undercover militant turned his gun on his sleeping comrades in Kunduz province.

Sangin has been one of the most heavily contested districts in Afghanistan since the 2001 USA -led invasion.

Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks.

The attacker reportedly set fire to the bodies before escaping.

The increased insecurity in the country has led Afghanistan's government to call for more United States troops to boost defences against the Taliban after the militants' launched their annual Spring Offensive.

According to USA estimates, government forces control less than 60 percent of Afghanistan, with nearly half the country either contested or under the control of the insurgents, who are seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

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