KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban attacks on a district in the southern Afghan province of Helmand province killed at least 24 police officers over the past two days, an Afghan official said on Sunday.
Kareem Atal, the director of Helmand's provincial council, said that battles between government forces and militants have been raging in the Kanashin district since late Friday, when the Taliban took control.
The fighting has spread north to other districts, where militants are targeting checkpoints and have killed at least seven policemen, he said.
The police and government compounds in the Nad Ali district have been surrounded by insurgents, Atal said. Taliban fighters are also trying to close key highways across the province.
Atal said that the police — who also fight on the front lines in Afghanistan' relentless insurgency — had received no help or backup from other branches of the security forces, including the army.
The fall of Kanashin and the subsequent threats to other districts were the result of a "lack of coordination among Afghan forces," Atal said, adding "The Afghan national army is not doing their job."
Atal's deputy Abdul Majeed Akhonzada earlier said that the Taliban were now in control of 60 percent of Helmand province, after about six months of fighting.
Helmand is a key opium producing and smuggling region. About 90 percent of the world's heroin is produced from Helmand opium, which is largely controlled by the Taliban for funding their war.
Elsewhere, in northern Jawzjan province, an official described "tough fighting" after hundreds of insurgent fighters attacked the Qush Tepa district.
The governor's spokesman Mohammad Reza Ghafoori said Afghan security forces were waiting for airstrike backup. He said the insurgents' ranks included Pakistanis, Uzbeks and Chechens.
Four Afghan security forces personnel have been killed, and another three wounded, he said.
Associated Press writer Karim Sharifi in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.