Newspaper article International New York Times

Afghan Taliban Battle in Old Stronghold ; Heavy Fighting Resumes in South as Hundreds of Militants Turn out in Force

Newspaper article International New York Times

Afghan Taliban Battle in Old Stronghold ; Heavy Fighting Resumes in South as Hundreds of Militants Turn out in Force

Article excerpt

Heavy fighting has returned to Kandahar Province, which was a militant stronghold until the American troop surge four years ago.

A sudden Taliban offensive in the southern province of Kandahar in recent days has led to some of the heaviest protracted fighting there in years, officials said over the weekend.

The militants overran a district center on the border with Pakistan, battled government forces near the provincial capital and staged a suicide-bomber attack on a home of the province's powerful security chief.

Kandahar, a crucial base of Taliban power since the 1990s, had enjoyed much-improved security since a surge of American troops pushed the Taliban out in 2010. American forces still maintain a base at the Kandahar airport, but Afghan forces have aggressively taken the lead in the province under the security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, whose brutal tactics in fighting the Taliban have raised criticism but have nonetheless been seen as effective.

In an annual public statement over the weekend for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, reiterated his determination to re-establish an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. The proof was borne out by a multifront offensive in Kandahar involving hundreds of Taliban fighters that was seemingly timed to take advantage of Eid al-Fitr, which closes the holy month of Ramadan.

As many as 100 Taliban, Pakistani and other foreign fighters attacked the district compound of Registan, the southernmost desert district of the province, on Saturday, Afghan officials said.

The battle raged for 10 hours as police officers fought for the compound, but their commander and five of his men were killed in the fighting as they ran out of ammunition, said Dawa Khan Minapal, a government spokesman in Kandahar. The area is remote, and army and police reinforcements were hours away across the red desert that gives the district its name. …

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