Taliban forces retake Musa Qala

It may only be a lightly defended Afghan provincial town but its recapture marks another step back for a resurgent Taliban. Ed.

A Taliban force thought to be around 100-strong attacked the district centre of Musa Qala at 4am this morning, overcoming a locally raised force of auxiliary police loyal to the Afghan government by 11am.

A local member of the Afghan parliament, Haji Mir Wali, told The Daily Telegraph: “The Taliban have destroyed the walls of the district centre. They have put the tribal elders who supported the agreement with the government in jail.”

Afghan interior ministry officials said that fighting is continuing in the town, with tribal elders loyal to the government, alongside local supporters and members of the police force, still resisting the Taliban.

The breakdown of the Musa Qala agreement came as General David Richards, the British general in command of Nato forces in the country, was preparing to hand control at the weekend the coalition’s new American commander, General Dan McNeill, who was reported this week to have viewed the truce, that was forged last year, with deep scepticism.

Western diplomatic sources monitoring the unfolding events in Musa Qala said that the Taliban force loyal to a local commander called Mullah Ghafoor, one of three senior Taliban commanders operating around Musa Qala, launched the attack after an airstrike by British forces killed his brother and eight supporters last week.

Taliban forces initially attempted to move into the town last Friday with a small force but were opposed by the local police and elders who insisted that the presence of Taliban forces would destroy the fragile peace that has existed in the town since December and lead to the return of Nato forces.

However, local sources report that Mullah Ghafoor returned this morning with additional fighters gathered from around the town of Sangeen, and according to some reports, reinforcements from Pakistan.

British troops withdrew from their forward operating base at Musa Qala late last year under the terms of the truce.