KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters on Sunday overran a district headquarters in a remote and mountainous region of northern Afghanistan, their latest offensive in an insurgent campaign to regain territory as foreign troops withdraw from the country, according to officials.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said a group of insurgents took over the building after police evacuated the facility in Badakhshan province's Karan wa Munjan district to prevent any civilian casualties.
"This year the enemy is trying to show their existence in northern parts of the country and that is one of the reasons that they are attacking Badakhshan province, "Sediqi said.
He pointed to a successful operation last week to clear insurgents from another district, Wurdoj, and said preparations were under way to retake the headquarters building. Sediqi added that the insurgents are only controlling the single building, which had a very small police presence.
At least 18 Afghan policemen died in the Wurdoj operations along with 47 insurgents, the ministry said last week. Afghan officials regularly report high death tolls from battles in remote areas that are impossible to verify.
"We did have successful military operations in Wurdoj district and now as they have been defeated there and couldn't keep their strongholds, so they made another choice and attacked Karan wa Munjan district," Sediqi said. "There is no doubt that we had fewer police forces in the district, they were not more than 30 policemen there at time the attack. Reinforcements are coming now."
Although attacks are increasingly common as insurgents escalate their campaign against government forces across Afghanistan, they are rare in Badakhshan.
The region is nestled in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges and bordering China and Pakistan, one of the most remote in the country.
In another incident, two people including a police office were killed and three civilians were wounded when a suicide attacker blew himself up outside a district police headquarters in the Marjah district of southern Helmand, provincial spokesman Omar Zwak said.