Southern Afghanistan district besieged by Taliban in government hands, officials say

KABUL - A strategically important district in the southern Afghan province of Helmand that has been besieged by the Taliban for weeks remains under government control after the United States conducted two airstrikes overnight, officials said on Thursday.

See Full Article

Fighting continued, Afghan officials said, after insurgents captured the area around the district governor's compound overnight but were pushed back, said Akhtar Muhammad, a police commander in Sangin.

"An hour later we recaptured that building and now we have it," he told The Associated Press.

The United States military conducted two airstrikes "in the vicinity of Sangin," according to the spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Mike Lawhorn. Both took place before midnight.

The spokesman for the Afghan army in Helmand, Guam Rasoul Zazai, said that Afghan military airstrikes had also bombarded Taliban strongholds in Sangin overnight, killing 25 insurgents and wounding another 12.

Operations were slowed as insurgents began taking shelter in civilian homes, he said.

A Taliban claim that they had the district under their control was widely refuted. Taliban statements regularly exaggerate battlefield gains, though government casualty figures are also impossible to verify.

Sangin is an important prize for the Taliban. It sits on crucial smuggling routes for drugs, arms and other contraband which fund the insurgency.

Insurgents have been fighting for control of Sangin for almost a month, though the battle intensified a week ago as government reinforcements failed to arrive and Afghan security forces were pinned down inside an army base.

Reinforcements arrived Wednesday afternoon after being rushed to the region, the acting Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai told reporters on Wednesday.

Shadi Khan, a tribal elder in Sangin who is also director of the Sangin District Council, said he was trapped in the base for three days before government forces arrived.

"Taliban rumours that they have captured the district are not true," he said.

The Taliban issued a statement Thursday laying out conditions for a peace dialogue to end the war, now in its 14th year. Talk of a dialogue between the Kabul government and the insurgents has resurfaced following a regional conference in the Pakistani capital earlier this month where hopes were raised that a process that was cancelled over the summer could be revived in 2016.

The announcement in July that the Taliban founder and leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for more than two years saw the group pull out of a dialogue process after only one meeting in Pakistan between representatives of each side. It also led to deep fissures in the group's leadership, further muddying the waters about just who the Afghan government should be talking to when the time comes.

The Taliban statement listed barriers to peace negotiations, including United Nations sanctions on individualTaliban figures which were extended this week, and the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, with specific mention of the British troops that arrived in Helmand on Wednesday to provide support for Afghan forces battling in Sangin.

Political analyst Waheed Muzhda, formerly an official in the Taliban's 1996-2001 administration, said the Taliban needed to sort out its leadership problems before it started talking about the peace process. Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who was Mullah Omar's deputy and took his place in August, has been locked in an increasingly violent dispute over the legitimacy of his position. "This is an issue that has to be clear in the negotiating process," Muzhda said.

-----

Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan and Humayoon Babur in Kabul contributed to this story.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Cheers! Birthday boy given $288 fine for dangerous Vancouver SkyTrain ride

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Most people are happy to reach another birthday, but at least one reveller who was out celebrating his 20th didn't seem to mind tempting mortality. Just after midnight on Dec. 9, Transit Police were notified of a man who was riding in between cars on a SkyTrain headed eastbound. Source
  • Toronto FC loses MLS Cup to Sounders in penalty kicks

    Canada News CBC News
    Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei came back to haunt his former team as the Sounders defeated Toronto 5-4 in a penalty shootout to win the MLS Cup and end a long, chilly Saturday night. It was 0-0 after regulation, with Frei keeping Seattle in the game with a marvellous save in extra time. Source
  • Rex Tillerson, top contender for secretary of State, is CEO with close ties to Russia

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump has found an accomplished American executive in Rex Tillerson, but one whose longstanding support for free trade, international law and an expansive U.S. presence in the Middle East largely doesn't fit with what Trump has pitched to supporters. Source
  • Italian President Sergio Mattarella vows quick fix to country's PM crisis

    World News CBC News
    Italian President Sergio Mattarella pledged on Saturday to act quickly to solve a government crisis prompted by Matteo Renzi's resignation as prime minister, with all major parties calling for elections as soon as possible. Before any vote can take place, however, Italy needs a new electoral law. Source
  • Crowded Nigerian church collapses, killing at least 60

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAGOS, Nigeria — The roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria on Saturday, killing at least 60 people, witnesses and an official said. The Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state, was still under construction and workers had been rushing to finish it in time for Saturday’s ceremony to ordain founder Akan Weeks as a bishop, congregants said. Source
  • Tanker rams into vehicles on Kenya road, killing more than 30

    World News Toronto Sun
    NAIROBI, Kenya — A tanker carrying chemical gas slammed into other vehicles and burst into flames on a major road in Kenya, killing more than 30 people and injuring 10, officials said Sunday. The vehicle lost control while going downhill on the road from the capital of Nairobi to Naivasha late Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Mwachi, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit. Source
  • 2 explosions outside Istanbul soccer stadium; 29 killed, 166 wounded [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    ISTANBUL — Two explosions struck Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, an attack that wounded at least 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said. One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb and the second appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber. Source
  • Montreal cabbie, 77, struggles to retire as ride-sharing apps devalue taxi permits

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada’s aging cab drivers fear the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber will render their pricey government-issued operating permits worthless. Many are counting on selling them at a profit to provide a nest egg for retirement. Source
  • Montreal cabbie, 77, struggles to retire as ride-hailing apps devalue taxi permits

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada’s aging cab drivers fear the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber will render their pricey government-issued operating permits worthless. Many are counting on selling them at a profit to provide a nest egg for retirement. Source
  • Over 30 killed after chemical gas tanker crashes in Kenya

    World News CBC News
    A tanker carrying chemical gas slammed into other vehicles and burst into flames on a major road in Kenya, killing more than 30 people and injuring 10, officials said Sunday. The vehicle lost control while going downhill on the road from the capital of Nairobi to Naivasha late Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Mwachi, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit. Source