Flights at Kandahar suspended as Taliban also assaults Herat and Lashkargah; government says 254 insurgents killed.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Flights were suspended after rockets hit the runway at Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-biggest international airport, officials confirmed Saturday, as security forces work to fight off Taliban advances in the country’s three biggest cities.
Ahmad Zia, Interior Ministry spokesman, told Anadolu Agency that multiple rockets were fired by the insurgents in the morning, leading to the suspension of flights. Blaming the Taliban for the shelling, Zia said there were no casualties.
The provincial police command said two rockets hit the runway, partially damaging it, and officials vowed repairs would be done by Monday to resume flight operations.
The Taliban, who have moved on at least three major provincial capitals amid the last stages of the US withdrawal from the country – Kandahar, Lashkargah, and Herat – had no comment, but claimed to have overrun multiple security checkpoints in Lashkargah, capital of the restive southern Helmand province.
“Numerous enemy posts have also been evacuated and the Mujahideen (Taliban) are advancing. Many weapons, vehicles and ammunition fell into the hands of Mujahidin,” tweeted Zabihullah Mujahed, the insurgents’ spokesman.
There have also been reports of caravans of civilians rushing to flee Lashkargah.
“254 Taliban terrorists were killed and 97 wounded as a result of ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) operations in Ghazni, Kandahar, Herat, Farah, Jowzjan, Balkh, Samangan, Helmand, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Kabul & Kapisa provinces during the last 24 hours,” tweeted the Defense Ministry on Sunday.
“Also, 13 IEDs were discovered & defused by ANA (Afghan National Army),” it added.
After overrunning nearly 200 rural districts, the Taliban began assaults on major cities on Friday as the insurgents marched on Herat – a city on the way to the Iranian border – causing panic and anxiety in the country’s third-largest city of an estimated half a million inhabitants.