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Fighting in West Afghanistan as Taliban Attempts to Capture City

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Multiple blasts and gun battle in eastern Afghan city

KABUL-Fighting raged Tuesday between Taliban militants and Afghan government forces for control of a provincial capital near the Iranian border, local officials said, in a confrontation shaping up as a stern test of USA efforts to build an effective, local force.

Fared Bakhtawer, head of the provincial council, offered a different picture, however, saying that several security checkpoints in Farah were overrun by the Taliban. "Six security forces have been killed in clashes with the Taliban and a security police official was wounded in the clashes", he said.

In the meantime, the residents of the city said that "if the government does not send more troops to the province, Farah city will fall into the hands of the Taliban".

Other residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of possible Taliban retribution, said Taliban militants began their operation at around 2130 GMT on Monday (2am) attacking the city from several directions.

During this time, Kohistan district in Badakhshan province, Belchiragh district in Faryab province and Tala Wa Barfak district in Baghlan province have fallen to the Taliban.

Violence has spiked in Afghanistan since the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive last month.

Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman for the defence ministry in Kabul said they have ordered security forces from neighbouring provinces to travel to Farah to protect civilians and government buildings.

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Inside the city residents reported clashes were continuing.

Abdullah, who had been speaking at the Council of Ministers Meeting, said in recent days hundreds of soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war against militants.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said in a statement that "serious measures" had been taken to defend Farah after the militants launched their offensive from the city's north side. The Taliban had captured a police district on the city's edge, he said.

Most have been in capital city Kabul, but in January gunmen attacked an office of aid group Save the Children in Jalalabad, killing at least five people and wounding 25.

It's also an important economic area with the multi-billion-dollar TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline planned for the region. Officials have warned of a deteriorating security situation as insurgents have entered the capital several times.

Farah has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years.

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