The explosion occurred close to Bismillah Mohammadi’s residence, where four assailants were also killed by Afghan security, according to Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman. The acting minister was not at home when the attack occurred and his family is fine, Aman added. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
Sami Sadat, who commands the 215 Maiwand Corps, said Monday that the military would be intensifying the fight against the Taliban in Lashkar Gah, and warned locals that it was best to leave in order to carry out their mission effectively.
“We won’t spare the Taliban alive at any cost,” Sadat said in a voice message distributed to media. “My request is that if … you get displaced for some days, please forgive us, as soon as you can please leave those areas where the Taliban [are]” so the military can fight the group in those areas, he added.
There is growing evidence that civilians are being killed and wounded in the ongoing clashes in Lashkar Gah.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted Tuesday of its “deepening concern for Afghan civilians” as fighting worsens.
At least 40 civilians have been killed and 118 civilians injured within the last 24 hours in Lashkar Gar, UNAMA said Tuesday, adding that “UN urges [an] immediate end to fighting in urban areas.”
Human Rights Watch echoed the UN’s concerns on Tuesday, saying that “indiscriminate attacks, including mortars, rockets, airstrikes, other explosive weapons and gunfire are causing catastrophic injuries and deaths in Lashkar Gah.”
Images and video from the city showed university buildings on fire Tuesday. The Taliban claimed that Bost university was hit by an airstrike; there’s been no word from the government.
Two police districts and a state-run TV station are now under Taliban control in Lashkar Gah. The city sits on strategic routes in all directions, including the highway between Kandahar and Herat and important agricultural areas to the south of the city. While the Taliban has long had a strong presence in Helmand province, including areas around Lashkar Gah, it has not occupied any part of the city since they were overthrown in 2001.
A local journalist in Lashkar Gah told CNN on Tuesday that fighting was continuing in two districts and that the Taliban had gotten close to the city’s prison before they were pushed back. The journalist reported new airstrikes on Tuesday morning against the Taliban.
Fifty high-value prisoners have been moved from the jail because of the ongoing fighting, a senior Afghan security official told CNN, with attempts being made to move another 85.
“Helmand might fall,” the official added, in a rare admission by authorities of how imperiled the southern province is in the face of the Taliban offensive.