0641 GMT January 16, 2022
Fighting resumed early Monday after scores of Taliban militants launched a massive attack on security checkpoints in the surrounding area of the city, capital of Helmand Province, a local source told Xinhua.
"The militants captured control of Police District 4 of the city, and they also overran the neighboring Nad-e-Ali District late on Sunday. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are involved in a counterattack and sporadic fighting continued during Monday in the city," the source said.
At least 70 Taliban militants were killed and several wounded during the fighting and airstrikes were conducted by Afghan Air Force in and around the city in the past 24 hours, the source added.
Clashes erupted after hundreds of Taliban members armed with guns and propelled grenades arrived from northern Helmand districts and the neighboring Kandahar and Farah provinces in recent days, Khalil Ul Rahman Jawad, the provincial police chief, told reporters earlier in the day.
Mawlawi Ghafoor, the militants' designated deputy governor for Helmand, was arrested during the fierce clashes on Sunday, according to the police chief.
The militants tried to take control of Lashkar Gah, but failed after the mastermind of the plan Ghafoor was arrested, he said.
A main road connecting national capital Kabul with southern and western provinces has also been blocked in the Helmand section since Sunday.
The police chief noted that the security forces made tactical retreat in parts of the city to avoid civilian and military casualties.
"Reinforcement forces arrived in Helmand from Kabul. The ANDSF will soon launch a major operation to kick out militants who captured areas inside and on outskirts of Lashkar Gah," he said.
Scores of families were displaced following the fighting.
Helmand Province is a known Taliban stronghold.
The bloodshed comes as the two sides are engaged in intra-Afghan talks in the Qatari capital Doha in an effort to end nearly two decades of war in the country, according to Press TV.
The first round of talks began last month in the wake of a deal reached between the US and the Taliban earlier this year in Doha.
Under the deal, Washington promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free the Taliban prisoners.
Official data, however, shows that Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since the militant group signed a deal with Washington.