Taliban forces launched a large-scale assault on the capital of Afghanistan’s western Farah province on Tuesday, the militant group said.
The attack began at about 2 a.m. in Farah city, near the Iranian border. Taliban fighters forced the governor to flee and caused the collapse of multiple security compounds.
It was the first Taliban assault on a provincial capital this year after it announced the start of its annual spring offensive last month and formally rejected Afghan government peace initiatives.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying fighters took “most parts of Farah city” and dozens of people, including three senior Afghan officials, were killed.
Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanish confirmed a district police chief in Farah died, but said other statements about violence were exaggerated.
“They kill one, and they claim three,” Radmanish said.
The NATO-led Resolute Support military forces issued a statement saying Farah city remained under government control and that air support, including U.S. Air Force A-10s, were assisting Afghan security forces.
“U.S. Forces-Afghanistan stand firm beside our Afghan partners and will continue to reinforce this Afghan-led offensive,” the statement said.
Radmanish said the governor’s office, the police headquarters, the National Directorate for Security, the university and the airport remain under government control and that Afghan officials would quickly expel the Taliban from Farah.
“We are hoping to get control of the fighting in the city,” he said. “Our reinforcements are trying to use their capabilities to overcome the situation.”
Farah is home to about 50,000 people and would be the second city to fall to the Taliban since the city of Kunduz fell twice in 2015 and 2016. Kunduz was subsequently retaken by the government both times.
By Daniel Uria