KABUL: Taliban militants have taken over a district, launched attacks on checkpoints and cemented control over a border trade crossing, officials said on Monday, as clashes intensify in Afghanistan’s central and northern provinces.

Violence has risen sharply around the country as foreign forces work towards withdrawing by Sept 11 and peace talks in Qatar have failed to make significant progress.

The Taliban have launched a wave of offensives around the country, particularly in the north, outside of their southern strongholds.

In central Bamiyan province, normally relatively free of conflict, Taliban fighters attacked several security checkpoints, resulting in heavy clashes overnight, according to Humayoon Elkhani, spokesman for Bamiyan’s provincial police.

In central Ghazni province, Muqur district fell to the Taliban after months of being under siege, according to a member of the provincial council and a security source. A health centre in the district was bombed on Monday morning, according to provincial health director Zaher Shah Nekmal, injuring five health workers.

In northern Badakhshan province, the Taliban launched coordinated attacks on five districts overnight but were fought back by Afghan security forces, according to a spokesperson for the provincial government.

The Taliban also still has maintained control of Shir Khan Bandar, a significant border crossing town with Tajikistan, after seizing it last week.

Shafiqullah Atayi, chairman of Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment, said the Taliban had appointed their own members to run the administration offices but that trade had stopped. A Taliban spokesman said they had appointed officials to run the transit point and it was open for people to cross.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s capital Kabul suffered severe power outages in recent days after a power pylon in central Parwan province was blown up on the weekend by unknown attackers.

A spokesperson for national power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat said around 35 power pylons had been blown up in the last six months, but they were not clear on who was behind the explosions.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2021

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