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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

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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Instagram Launches Beta Version if its in-app Shopping Feature in US

Instagram's plans on rolling out the feature globally remain unclear

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FILE - The Instagram icon is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. VOA

Facebook-owned photo messaging app Instagram has launched the beta version of its in-app shopping feature in the US that would allow over a billion users to buy products tagged in images or videos without having to leave the platform.

Called “Checkout with Instagram”, the feature would allow US users to shop from over 20 brands including Adidas, Kylie Cosmetics and Warby Parker, without re-directing users to other websites.

“We will introduce a selling fee to help fund programmes and products that help make checkout possible, as well as offset transaction-related expenses,” TechCrunch quoted an Instagram spokesperson as saying on Tuesday.

The photo-messaging app would charge sellers making sales an undisclosed amount of fee.

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“We aren’t sharing the specific number right now. We are testing a selling fee with businesses during the closed beta. It will not change the price of the items for consumers,” the spokesperson said.

Checkout tags would appear on feed posts, Stories and Explore content from the brands in the closed beta that Instagram plans to eventually open to more businesses.

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For now, those who use Instagram’s shopping feature can pay with PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, the report added.

Instagram’s plans on rolling out the feature globally remain unclear. (IANS)