Afghan civilians flee Taliban advancement in southern Helmand province

Published August 10th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
Afghan policemen search commuters at a checkpoint in Helmand province on August 9, 2016. (AFP/Noor Mohammed)
Afghan policemen search commuters at a checkpoint in Helmand province on August 9, 2016. (AFP/Noor Mohammed)

Thousands of Afghan civilians have fled to the provincial capital city of Lashkar Gah as the Taliban militants are reportedly advancing on several areas of the southern province of Helmand.

Omar Zawak, a spokesman for Helmand's governor, warned on Tuesday that the provincial capital was struggling to cope with an influx of people fleeing fierce fighting across the troubled region.

"Around 30,000 people have been displaced in Helmand in the past several weeks. Most of them are coming to Lashkar Gah," Zawak said, adding, "It [is] difficult for the city to contain all of them. Families, children, women, all have to sleep on the streets. There is a shortage of food and clean water. We need urgent support."

Meanwhile, the Taliban advance has also compounded fears that the troubled provincial capital city is on the brink of falling into the militants’ hands.

NATO has voiced concern over the intensity of the ongoing battle in Helmand.

"The situation down there remains tense and somewhat contested," the statement read, adding, "It remains an ongoing security concern and there has been fighting down there for the last several weeks. We remain confident that the Afghan forces are fighting effectively and that they will continue to secure Lashkar Gah."

Panicked residents have also expressed fears that Lashkar Gah could fall.

"The Taliban are in control of all the roads leading to Lashkar Gah," AFP quoted resident Haji Qayum as saying, adding, "The police check posts are falling one by one. There is a great fear the capital may fall to the Taliban."

On Monday, the Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed that heavy fighting had flared in Nad Ali and militants overran a neighborhood only a few kilometers from Lashkar Gah. In addition to that, the Taliban militants have also carried out attacks in Nawa district, just south of Lashkar Gah.

Taliban effectively controls or contests 10 of the 14 districts in the opium-rich Helmand province.

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