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Afghan Army Retakes Taliban-Held District

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Abdul Rashid Dostum (left) first vice president of Afghanistan, has been leading operations against the Taliban in Faryab Province.

Abdul Rashid Dostum (left) first vice president of Afghanistan, has been leading operations against the Taliban in Faryab Province.

Afghan officials say security forces have retaken the Ghormach district in the northwestern Faryab Province after it was overrun by Taliban militants several days ago.

Baryalai Basharyar, provincial deputy police chief said government forces raised the Afghan flag over the district headquarters in the morning of October 24 following a three-day air-and-ground offensive.

Basharyar also said Ghormach district police chief Abdul Majid along with at least 12 other policemen had been killed by the Taliban after they were captured alive last week.

"Commander Majid, the brave police chief, didn't leave his stronghold to the enemy until he was wounded and captured by the Taliban," said Basharyar.

Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said that government forces were still clearing the district center of pockets of Taliban resistance.

Reinforcements were sent to Faryab after the Taliban seized the district on October 18.

The Interior Ministry said First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum coordinated operations there.

Dostum -- a former warlord and general in Afghanistan's communist-era military -- traveled on October 20 to the northwestern province that borders Turkmenistan to lead operations there.

The fighting in Faryab, part of a widening Taliban insurgency across the country, comes three weeks after the militants briefly captured the key northern city of Kunduz in their biggest military success of the 14-year conflict.

Dostum's forces earlier this week also attacked villages in Afghanistan's northern Jowzjan Province that Taliban forces captured.

On October 23, the offensive launched by forces Dostum chased several dozen Taliban militants to an island in the Amu-Darya, the river that divides Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

Dozens of Taliban fighters were stranded on the river island on October 24 after deserting their motorbikes and using fishing boats to reach the island, said Sultan Faizy, a spokesman for Dostum.

"They have no choice but to surrender or starve," Faizy said, adding that Afghan troops had not advanced to ensure they did not enter Turkmenistan.

Faizi said Afghan officials were in contact with their Turkmen counterparts.

A Taliban spokesman denied its fighters were marooned, saying they were basing themselves on the Afghan side of the island to stage their fight against government forces.

With reporting by AP and Pajhwok