2015 bloodiest year for Afghan civilians as violence continues
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Sunday declared 2015 to have been one of the bloodiest years on record for Afghan civilians, with at least 3,545 killed and another 7,457 injured.

Violence, meanwhile, continues to rage in several parts of the country.

On Saturday, Afghan security officials claimed to have killed some 150 Taliban militants in the restive Helmand and Baghlan provinces in military offensives that remain ongoing.

Fighting in Baghlan has reportedly caused a weeklong power outage in capital Kabul, as a main power transmission line passes through the province.

In recent months, Baghlan’s Dandh-i-Shahab and Dand-i-Ghori districts have seen a surge in militancy.

The situation escalated earlier this month when clashes erupted between Afghan National Security Forces and Taliban militants.

Since then, the ANSF has conducted several air and ground offensives in the area.

Mohammad Mobin, ANSF commander in Baghlan, said Saturday that as many as 150 militants had been killed in the past two weeks and another 120 injured.

Talking to journalists, Mobin said three major Taliban commanders had been among those killed, along with a number of Pakistani and Chechen fighters.

"The operation in Baghlan will continue until the area is cleared of militants," he asserted, adding that less than 10 security personnel had been killed or injured in the operation.

Abdul Rahman Sarjang, police chief in the southern Helmand province, meanwhile, said the ANSF had thwarted a bid by the Taliban to overrun the nearby Sangin province, which was briefly seized by the Taliban last year.

Sarjang said aerial and land operations by government forces had led to the death of 40 Taliban fighters.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf, however, denied the claims, saying that the group’s fighters had recently attacked several police checkpoints, killing a number of police personnel.

His assertions, too, however, could not be verified.

Meanwhile, Brigadier-General Wilson Shoffner, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said last Thursday that the U.S. military was bolstering its province in Helmand.

"We are increasing our advising effort in Helmand province," Shoffner, speaking from Kabul, told reporters.

This would not affect overall U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, he added, which currently stands at some 9,800.
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