June 11, 2015 / 6:18 AM / 4 years ago

Afghan security forces and militants battle over northeastern district

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces and militant fighters are locked in a battle for control over a remote district in northeastern Afghanistan, officials said on Saturday.

Police and local officials evacuated their compounds in the central district of Yamgan in Badakhshan province on Saturday as militants laid siege to the area, provincial governor Shah Waliullah Adib told Reuters.

“But they now are fighting to take back control of the district,” Adib said.

“We have enough forces to take the district back and keep it in future.”

Six militants were killed by Afghan security forces during the clearance operation, interior ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said on Twitter.

Fighting in Afghanistan intensifies each spring as snows that make mountainous areas impassable melt, allowing greater movement of fighters and weapons. The Taliban’s offensive has been more aggressive and widespread than previous years, including an earlier attack in Badakhshan’s Jorm district in April.

This is the first year that Afghanistan’s security forces are facing the insurgency on their own, after most foreign troops withdrew at the end of last year and the new NATO-led mission shifted its focus to training and advising the Afghan military and government.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

A Taliban spokesman said its fighters had killed 18 Afghan security force members, though the insurgent group’s claims of casualty numbers are often inflated.

In the first four months of 2015, the United Nations recorded 2,937 casualties nationwide, including 974 deaths, a record number and a 16 percent increase over the same period last year.

Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Digby Lidstone

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