Kandahar, Afghanistan - Families abandoned their homes in droves, air strikes rained down on neighbourhoods and bodies filled the streets as the Taliban took their fight to Afghanistan’s cities over the weekend, starting a new bloody chapter in the country’s long war. Residents in the southern city of Lashkar Gah said the Taliban were fighting pitched battles from “street to street” with Afghan security forces and had surrounded the police headquarters and governor’s office.
“The aircraft are bombing the city every minute. Every inch of the city has been bombed,” Badshah Khan, a resident of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, told AFP by phone.
“You can see dead bodies on the streets. There are bodies of people in the main square,” he added.
The government remained in control of Lashkar Gah as of late Sunday thanks to the constant barrage of air strikes, but the future of the provincial capital seemed to hang from a thread as wave after wave of insurgents entered the city. Violence has soared across Afghanistan since early May when the Taliban launched a sweeping offensive across large swaths of the country as the US military began its final withdrawal following nearly 20 years of operations. The Taliban gobbled rural districts at a rapid rate, often without a fight.
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But the country’s military has been digging in to defend a string of provincial capitals scattered across Afghanistan -- including Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat.
Following a brief lull in fighting during the Eid al-Adha holidays late last month, the Taliban appear to have turned their attention to capturing cities, launching withering onslaughts on several provincial capitals.
In Lashkar Gah, resident Hazrat Omar Shirzad was livid after the Taliban forced him out of his house to take shelter from the air strikes. “The Islamic Emirate set the earth ablaze and the republic put the sky on fire. Nobody cares about the nation,” said Shirzad.