Residents told to evacuate as Afghan forces launch major offensive in Lashkargah

203

Afghan security forces have launched a major offensive operation in Lashkargah city, the capital of Helmand province, and urged the residents to evacuate the areas under Taliban control.

Security forces warned that the Taliban are “using civilian homes” as fighting positions.

As per Afghan media reports, Hibatullah Alizai, the commander of the Special Operations Corps, said that a clearance operation began in Lashkargah city on Wednesday night.

The operation was launched at about 10 pm local time in PD1 of Lashkargah, Alizai said, urging the residents to evacuate the areas under Taliban control as the airstrikes and ground operations move forward, warning that the Taliban are “using civilian homes” as fighting positions.

The operation began on Wednesday night after hundreds of Afghan commandos and special forces were deployed to Helmand on Tuesday, according to officials.

Alizai said the Taliban’s designated governor for Helmand was killed in the fight with security forces, but the Taliban denied the claim.

“The Taliban has suffered heavy casualties in the Helmand clashes,” he said.

Thursday marks the ninth day of fighting in Lashkargah.

The reports said that airstrikes in several parts of Lashkargah were carried out on Wednesday night, according to security forces.

No numbers of casualties sustained by government forces or of civilians are available yet.

Out of the 10 districts in Lashkargah, nine have been captured by the Taliban in the recent fightings. Twelve of the 13 districts in Helmand are controlled by the Taliban. Only Kajaki district remains under government control.

On Wednesday, fighting continued near the police headqauters, governor’s office, the prison, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and other government buildings in PD1 of the city, according to the local officials. All key government offices are located in PD1.

Previously, the residents of Helmand had said that houses, shops and markets have sustained heavy damage during the ongoing clashes and thousands of families have been displaced.

On Tuesday, the commander of the Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps, General Sami Sadat, had urged the residents of Lashkargah to evacuate their houses as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is planning large-scale operations to clear the city of Taliban.

Sadat said he made the announcement because the safety of residents is the priority of the ANDSF.

–IANS

san/arm