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Taliban launches overnight and pre-dawn assaults on 2 districts in Afghanistan, captures one of them

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said it has taken control of the entire district of Khan Abad in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan

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Taliban Fighters. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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Taliban forces launched overnight and pre-dawn assaults on two districts in eastern and northern Afghanistan, capturing one of them, say Afghan officials and insurgent sources.

Local police commander Munir Himat told VOA hundreds of Taliban insurgents staged a pre-dawn assault on Hesarak in eastern Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, but that security forces with the support of airstrikes pushed them back, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. He reported fighting was still taking place in parts of the district.

Afghan officials also confirmed the fall of Khan Abad district in northern Kunduz province to the Taliban in overnight fighting and say heavy fighting is taking place in the nearby Aliabad district.

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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid says it has taken control of the entire district of Khan Abad in northern Kunduz province and has released video of Afghan soldiers insurgents captured before the important territorial victory.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Image source: www.pakistantoday.com.pk
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Image source: www.pakistantoday.com.pk

The fall of the Khan Abad district after days of heavy clashes would bring the Islamist insurgent group close enough to threaten the strategically important provincial capital also named Kunduz that was briefly overrun by the Taliban during last year’s fighting.

Significance of Kunduz

Kunduz’s fall to the Taliban in September of 2015 had dealt a blow to authorities and Afghanistan’s international backers because this was the first major urban centre the insurgents captured after NATO withdrew its combat forces from the country.

“Kunduz is currently the most vulnerable province in the Afghan North. Since the provincial capital fell last year, Kunduz has seen more Taliban attacks on district centres than any other province in the country,” according to Kabul-based independent Afghanistan Analysts Network.

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The insurgents recently captured a district in the neighbouring Baghlan province to expand their influence in the area in a bid to threaten Afghanistan’s crucial ring road, which circles the country. Observers say the Taliban appears to be trying to cut off of the road to restrict Kabul’s access to the northern provinces

US airstrikes

Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David Golden revealed this past week that B-52 strategic bombers have carried out airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan for the first time in a decade, underscoring the intensity of the fighting.

According to a statement, U.S. warplanes have flown more than 800 sorties and conducted more than 140 strikes in the country since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered in June that air power be used more proactively in Afghanistan.

Critics say that recent security gains by Afghan forces across the country have been overshadowed by the Taliban’s recent battlefield victories.

The insurgent group has overrun several districts in Afghanistan’s largest province of Helmand and fighting there has most recently been taking place near the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

The Taliban’s steady advances in the poppy-growing province, which borders Pakistan, have come despite increased in American airstrikes in the area. (VOA)

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Apple to shut its last Watch-exclusive store in May

Apple's shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017 grew by more than 32 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016 to eight million

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Apple Watch Nike+ smartwatch. Flickr

Apple will shut down its last of the three Apple Watch-exclusive stores — located in Tokyo — it built when it launched the wearable in 2015.

On May 13, the last Apple Watch-exclusive store will close its doors. Twitter user Shotaro Akiba has shared a photo on the microblogging platform showing the department store’s announcement, Engadget reported on Sunday.

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Many apps pulled out of the watchOS. VOA

Apple had shut down the other two stores in London and Paris last year. According to 9to5mac website, the shop held a sale in which it was selling the remaining Apple Watch Edition inventory for as little as $700.

These 18-karat gold watches were sold for at least $10,000 and as much as $17,000 when they first became available, the report said.

Earlier this month, high-profile applications, including Instagram, Amazon, Google Maps and Twitter, pulled out their apps from the WatchOS. Driven by Apple Watch Series 3 shipments, the Cupertino-headquartered giant shipped a record 18 million Watch devices in 2017 — an increase of 54 per cent compared to the previous year.

Also Read: Apple working on gold variant of iPhone X: Report

“The Series 3 was the key growth driver, as total shipments of the latest version of Apple’s Watch were just under nine million, making up nearly half of all shipments in 2017,” Singapore-based market research firm Canalys said.

Apple’s shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017 grew by more than 32 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016 to eight million — the highest-ever number of shipments in a single quarter for any wearable vendor. IANS