A key district in the Afghan province of Baghlan, where seven Indians were abducted on Sunday, has fallen to the Taliban, increasing concerns about security in the region.
The Taliban overran Tala Barfaak district in the northern province on Tuesday after fighting left at least 15 Afghan troops dead. Another 100 troops were reported missing, Afghan media quoted local MP Muhammad Azim Muhseni as saying.
The Taliban also seized weapons and armoured vehicles. Two other districts were seized by the militants in the past fortnight and several more have been threatened, according to The Long War Journal, which closely tracks the security situation in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced that the district centre and police headquarters in Tala Barfaak had been overrun by the group’s fighters on Tuesday.
Tala Barfaak district governor Ismail Barfaki told Tolo News channel that roads to the district were closed after the Taliban attacked different routes on Tuesday. He said dozens of Taliban fighters had come from across Samangan, Kunduz and Baghlan provinces to fight government forces in the area.
Though no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction of the Indians, Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban. The Indians were kidnapped from Bagh-e-Shamal area area of the provincial capital Pul-e-Khumri and are now believed to be in the Dand-e-Shahabuddin area.
Observers believe the worsening security situation in Baghlan could complicate efforts to rescue the Indians, all engineers who were working on power projects.
During a meeting with India’s new ambassador Vinay Kumar in Kabul on Monday, Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani said security forces would not spare any efforts to secure the release of the engineers.