Smoke arises from houses burnt amid the ongoing fight between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )
This is the first provincial capital to face all-out assault by the Taliban since US troop withdrawal
Smoke covered the provincial capital in Afghanistan on Thursday as fighting went on between Afghan forces and the Taliban. The fighting is going on for a second straight day. The government has flown in hundreds of commandos into Qala-i-Naw, the city that is capital of northwestern province of Badghis.
This is the first provincial capital to face all-out assault by the Taliban since US troop withdrawal.
With the US pullout "90 percent complete", according to the Pentagon, the insurgents have launched a blistering campaign to capture new territory, and fears are mounting that Afghan forces will be stretched without vital American air support.
Video obtained by AFP showed thick smoke billowing over the city, and the sound of gunfire could be heard.
Badghis health official Abdul Latif Rostaee said at least 10 civilians had been taken to hospital since the fighting erupted.
"The Taliban have resumed their attacks from several directions with light and heavy weapons," Badghis Governor Hessamuddin Shams told AFP on Thursday.
"Our security forces are bravely fighting them and the enemy is being pushed back. They are fleeing. We will give a hard blow to the enemy."
On Wednesday, the Taliban briefly seized the police headquarters and the local office of the country's spy agency, but were later pushed back.
'Women will not be able to work'
Parisila Herawai, a rights activist in the city, expressed concern for the safety of women in particular.
"It is an emergency situation for all women, especially activists," she told AFP.
"If the Taliban plan to remain in the city, we will not be able to work."
As news of the assault spread on Wednesday, social media was flooded with videos of clashes -- with some showing armed Taliban fighters on motorbikes entering the city, as onlookers cheered.
Local officials said some security officers had surrendered to the Taliban, and the insurgents opened the gates of the city jail, freeing hundreds of prisoners.
Most had since been recaptured, officials said.
Overnight, the defence ministry rushed hundreds of commandos to the city to launch a "large scale operation", spokesman Fawad Aman said on Twitter.
(With inputs from agencies)