KABUL (Reuters) - At least 10 policemen were killed in clashes with Taliban fighters in the central Afghan province of Wardak, officials said on Sunday, amid fighting to wrest control of arterial highways a day after Taliban fighters blew up bridges.
The Taliban set fire to a government building in Wardak’s Sayeed Abad district and killed the district police chief along with nine other policemen on Saturday night, a senior police official said.
Repeated assaults by insurgents on strategically important provinces, such as Wardak and nearby Ghazni have underscored how volatile security remains in Afghanistan two weeks before nationwide parliamentary elections.
At least 25 Taliban insurgents were killed by Afghan security forces, government officials said, and reinforcements from neighboring provinces were deployed to regain control of contested highways.
Officials said Afghan forces had driven out Taliban insurgents from the highway that connects Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to the major southern city of Kandahar.
Abdul Rahman Mangal, a spokesman for the Wardak governor’s office, said the Taliban raided some civilian houses after killing 10 policemen in that province, destroyed newly built checkpoints and cut power to some parts of the city.
Government forces counter-attacked to stop the insurgents from approaching the city, Mangal said.
Afghanistan’s power supply company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, said in a statement major power lines serving Wardak and Ghazni had been cut. The power cuts also affected parts of the nearby provinces of Logar and Paktia.
It said teams would be sent to repair the lines as soon as security improves.
A statement from the Taliban’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the insurgents had taken the centre of Sayeed Abad in Wardak and all surrounding security checkpoints, killing numerous members of the security forces and seizing weapons, ammunition and vehicles.
Mohammad Arif Noori, a spokesman for Ghazni’s governor, said one soldier was killed by Taliban fighters as they tried to gain control over parts of the province nearly two months after being pushed back from the city by U.S.-backed Afghan forces.
The Taliban attacked Ghazni, a strategically important centre straddling the main highway linking Kabul with Afghanistan’s south, in August. It was the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015.
That confrontation killed 150 members of Afghanistan’s security forces and 95 civilians, as well as hundreds of Taliban fighters.
Reporting by Mustafa Andalib, Abdul Qadir Sediqi,; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Paul Tait