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Afghan Taliban takes control over two districts on Pakistan border

Pakistani supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) organization hold play cards and shout slogans during a protest after JUD leader, Hafiz Saeed was placed under house arrest by authorities in Lahore on January 31, 2017. A Pakistani militant group held protests in the country's major cities after its leader, one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was placed under house arrest following years of foreign pressure. (Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press/Sipa USA/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Taliban fighters have overrun two districts in the southeastern province of Paktika, on the border with Pakistan, officials said on July 24.

Local officials said Taliban fighters began attacking security checkpoints and the centers of the Omna and Gayan districts in Paktika on July 22, forcing Afghan security forces in the area to pull out leaving large quantities of weapons and equipment.

After almost two days of heavy fighting, the Taliban captured both district centers, provincial council members said, adding that at least three members of the Afghan security forces and as many as 22 were killed, with a number of others injured.

The Taliban has taken control of a series of district centers so far this year, many of which have been subsequently retaken by Afghan security forces, who control areas with around two thirds of the country’s population.

At least 14.5 percent of Afghanistan’s approximately 400 districts are fully controlled by the Taliban, while 30 percent are contested, according to the country’s military.

On July 23, General John Nicholson, the U.S. general who commands the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said security had improved in 14 districts and declined in eight others this year, to leave the overall levels of government control across the country roughly stable.

Reuters, citing local officials, reported that south of Paktika, in the neighboring province of Zabul, 15 members of the Afghan security forces were killed and 18 others were injured after the Taliban stormed the district of Atghar.

The Taliban attackers were eventually pushed back as Afghan security forces received air support, with 25 Taliban members killed and 20 wounded, Reuters reported.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters