KABUL (NYTIMES) - The Taleban claimed to have captured the capital of the western province of Farah on Tuesday (May 15), while government officials and their US military backers vowed that the authorities would quickly oust insurgents from the city, the first to be overrun by the militants in two years.
Only the provincial governor's compound remained in government hands after a long day of fighting, which continued into the night, according to numerous residents and some local officials, as well as the Taleban insurgents.
Governor Basir Salangi fled the city after the insurgent attack began around 2am, but he remained in Farah province at a military base a few miles outside Farah city, according to numerous local officials.
The fighting in Farah was part of a recent increase in the tempo of attacks by the insurgents, since their announcement of a spring offensive late in April and their explicit rejection of Afghan government peace initiatives.
A senior Afghan police official, reached by telephone inside Farah city, described the government's situation as "out of control" and predicted the insurgents would renew their offensive under cover of dark, when air support was less effective against them.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was contradicting official government reports.
A Taleban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi issued a statement late on Tuesday afternoon on WhatsApp messaging groups claiming that the insurgents had taken "most parts of Farah city". He said that three senior Afghan security officers were among dozens killed in the insurgents' assault, which government officials denied.
Afghan officials confirmed that a district police chief in Farah died of his wounds on Tuesday, but they denied claims that the deputy provincial police chief had also died, saying he was critically wounded. Other claims were exaggerated, officials said.
"They kill one, and they claim three," said General Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence.
The US military said in a statement that it had A-10 warplanes over the city, "which remains under government control". Those aircraft are generally used for close support of troops, but the statement did not clarify whether they were joining Afghan military helicopters in bombing the Taleban.