Afghan Taliban: Helmand town police HQ ‘under siege’
The police HQ in the strategic Afghan town of Sangin remains under siege after a Taliban attack, officials say.
But there are conflicting reports as to who controls the remote district in Helmand province.
The Helmand governor and police dismissed Taliban reports that it now controlled Sangin as "totally false".
Sangin has fallen under Taliban control several times, and fighting there has produced significant casualties among Afghan and international forces.
In the east, a Taliban attack near Bagram on Monday killed six US soldiers. It was one of the deadliest attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan this year.
Three rockets were also fired into Kabul overnight on Monday.
Some 12,000 foreign soldiers are deployed as part of the Nato-led Resolute Support international coalition, which is meant to underpin Afghanistan's own security forces.
'SUPPLIES RUNNING LOW'
Police officers and soldiers inside the Sangin police headquarters appeared to be still holding out as of today morning.
The district police commander, Mohammad Dawood, earlier told the BBC the Taliban had completely cut the facility off from the rest of the province, and food and weapons supplies were running low.
Dawood said that, over the past month, security forces in the district had sustained 365 casualties, both dead and injured.
Confusion over the fate of Sangin has been exacerbated by different statements coming from Helmand Governor Merza Khan Rahimi and his deputy, Mohammad Jan Rasulyar.
"Our forces are in Sangin district and there are some clashes, but the district is in our control. We carried out some operations there last night as well," Rahimi said.
His claim was supported by police in Helmand who said that security personnel had been rescued from a Taliban siege and security measures had been expanded in the area.
Rasulyar said the district had been overrun by the Taliban late on Sunday and only some army facilities had not been taken.
Sangin was once the centre of operations for international forces in Afghanistan, a key district that linked Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to the province's northern districts.
Regaining full control of Sangin would increase the Taliban's mobility in parts of northern Helmand and cut a key supply line for Afghan forces with Lashkar Gah. Sangin is also a rich opium production centre - meaning potential tax revenue for the Taliban from the drugs trade.
The big question now is whether the Taliban can maintain their recent territorial gains in the district. Keeping control of the centre of Sangin will not be easy, but resentment of government troops is high in the district following military operations this year which locals say wrought unwarranted destruction to property.
If the government wants to wrest total control of the area from the militants, it should look to win hearts and minds - a strategy once trumpeted by the foreign forces which controlled this part of the country.
The Taliban said they controlled most of the town and the main administrative building had been abandoned.
Britain has meanwhile announced that a small number of UK personnel have been deployed to Camp Shorabak in Helmand province in an advisory role as part of Britain's contribution to Resolute Support.
"These personnel are part of a larger Nato team, which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army. They are not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
Separately, reports say the Taliban are also close to overrunning the neighbouring district of Gereshk.
The head of Helmand's provincial council, Muhammad Kareem Atal, was quoted by AP as saying that "around 65%" of Helmand was now under Taliban control.
In September, the Taliban briefly overran the northern city of Kunduz in one of their biggest victories in 14 years of war.