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Afghan Forces Start New Year Battling Taliban | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Taliban militants pose with weapons in an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province in this December 13, 2010 picture. REUTERS, Stringer

Kabul- Afghan security forces faced a tough year ahead on Monday as Taliban began the new year with another onslaught in Afghanistan’s embattled southern Helmand province, where fighting continued for the third day, authorities and locals said.

All civilians fled the center of the Helmand district targeted in the attack, according to a local tribal elder, Shamsullah Sahrayi.

The state of the fighting was unclear on Monday, with Taliban, government troops and tribal elders all giving different accounts.

Taliban claimed in a Tweet that they were attacking government offices; however, provincial spokesman Omar Zwak said that “all government facilities, including the district governor’s compound and police station were under government control.”

“Taliban have taken heavy casualties, three of their commanders have also died in the clashes,” Haji Sulaiman Shah, the district chief for the long embattled Sangin district said.

The district targeted by the Taliban onslaught has been the center of the Helmand conflict since the NATO combat mission ended in 2014 and was also once the focus of the British fight against the insurgency.

Meanwhile, the Taliban also claimed to have reopened a road connecting Helmand’s provincial capital Lashkargar and the neighboring Kandahar province after a week-long blockage.