Taliban have seized a district in a remote area of northern Afghanistan following several days of fierce fighting in the wake of the group’s annual spring offensive that began last month.
Local officials said on Friday that it was Kohistan district, located north of Fayzabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.
Sanaullah Rohani, provincial police spokesman, said the Thursday night seizure came after security forces failed to receive reinforcements and pulled out of the district police headquarters.
A number of security posts in Teshkan district, to the south of Fayzabad, were also abandoned to the militants.
Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said at least 15 members of Afghan security forces had been killed and 14 wounded with three pickup trucks and a large number of weapons seized. Two Taliban militants were also killed.
Taliban have been making inroads in Badakhshan and the seizure of Kohistan brings to three the number of districts the militants control in the province.
Fierce fighting across Afghanistan has intensified in recent weeks with the return of warmer weather, putting government forces under pressure in several areas, including the capital Kabul.
On May 1, two back-to-back bomb blasts hit near government buildings in Kabul during the morning rush hour, leaving at least 25 people dead.
Afghanistan is preparing to hold long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections due in October.
Voter registration has been underway across Afghanistan but many people have been reluctant to sign up for fear of attacks on voter centers by Taliban, which is opposed to the elections.
Taliban are active in two thirds of the country and fully control four percent of it. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group has also recently established a foothold in the eastern and northern parts of Afghanistan.
The latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, a US congressional watchdog, shows that in terms of districts, the Afghan government controls or influences 56.3 percent of the country, the second lowest level since at least 2015.
Some 17 years into the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, the country is still suffering from insecurity and militancy.