Up to 100 Afghans killed, 12 beheaded, in Taliban offensive

Up to 100 Afghans killed, 12 beheaded, in Taliban offensive

KABUL - Agence France-Presse
Up to 100 Afghans killed, 12 beheaded, in Taliban offensive

Internally displaced Afghan civilians flee an Afghan military operation against Taliban insurgents in Dur Baba district near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the eastern Nangarhar province on Sept. 25. AFP Photo

A major Taliban offensive in eastern Afghanistan over the past week has left up to 100 civilians and security personnel dead, 12 of them beheaded, officials said Sept. 26 as violence worsens with the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops.

This summer's fighting season has seen Taliban forces advance in several provinces, exploiting a political deadlock in Kabul over disputed presidential election results.

The latest series of attacks have focused on Ajristan district in the eastern province of Ghazni, after offensives in recent months in Kandahar, Helmand and Logar provinces.

"The militants beheaded 12 civilians in four villages," Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni, told AFP.

"We do not have a precise figure, but we estimate 80 to 100 people were killed over the past one week.

"Heavy fighting has involved hundreds of Taliban against the security forces."       

"At the moment, the condition is very critical in this district. We have been informed by the central government that they have sent reinforcements."       

Ahmadi said Ajristan was at severe risk of falling into Taliban control, adding that 60 to 70 homes had been burnt down and that communication with security forces in the district was scarce.

Asadullah Ensafi, deputy police chief of Ghazni, confirmed details on the offensive and said fierce fighting was ongoing Sept. 26.

The interior ministry in Kabul was not immediately available for comment. The government has said that Afghan soldiers and police have always successfully beaten back previous Taliban offensives in recent months.

The 350,000-strong Afghan security forces have been trained from scratch since 2001 by the U.S.-led NATO coalition, which is now winding down its war in Afghanistan.

All NATO combat operations will finish by the end of this year, with about 12,000 troops staying on into next year on a follow-up training and support mission.

The election deadlock since June was finally broken on Sept. 21  when a "unity government" deal was agreed, with Ashraf Ghani serving as the next president and his rival Abdullah Abdullah taking up the new role of chief executive.