Updated to include report of Afghan military retaking the district center.
The Afghan Taliban claimed that it overran the district center of Ghoryan in the western province of Herat today. The jihadist group made the claim on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda website:
Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate in Herat province launched coordinated attacks late afternoon hours today on Ghoryan district administration center and police HQ.
Officials say that heavy fighting is underway at the moment, more details about which will be updated later.
Update: Fresh reports arriving from Herat province say that Ghoryan district administration center, police HQ and all government buildings have been overrun by Mujahideen.
3 enemy vehicles have also been destroyed in the fighting while 2 motorbikes and sizable amount of equipment seized.
While the Taliban’s claim hasn’t been supported in the Afghan press, previous reports have proven accurate. Additionally, Afghan Islamic Press, which is at least sympathetic to the Taliban, also reported today that fighting was ongoing in Ghoryan. According to witnesses:
Taliban have entered the district center. A number of shops caught fire and the Taliban have set fire to at least one checkpoint in the district. The fighting is going on in the bazaar and there is no information about possible casualties.
Residents of Herat city said that the police chief [Gen Abdol Majid Rozi] and dozens of police personnel along with 20 vehicles have now been deployed to help government forces in the district.
A local commander, Mullah Nasim, is said to have led Taliban fighting in the district.
Ghoryan is the second district to fall to the Taliban in western Afghanistan in three days. On Oct. 18, the jihadist group claimed it overran Ghormach in Faryab. This was later confirmed by Afghan officials. The military launched an offensive to retake the district, Khaama Press reported today.
The Taliban now controls 36 districts and contests another 36, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal (see maps by LWJ and The New York Times). The group has made a push to gain territory over the past several weeks, seizing 13 districts in the north, west, and south.
Update on Oct. 21:
Herat’s police chief has confirmed the district fell to the Taliban, but said police have since retaken the district. Ghoryan is now considered contested. From Reuters:
The Taliban raised their flag in the main district center for a few hours before police reinforcements arrived and cleared them out, Herat police chief, General Abdul Majid Rozi said.