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Farah 'getting back to normal' but scars of heavy fighting remain

19 May 2018 Al Jazeera

A sense of normality appears to slowly return to the Afghan city of Farah after it witnessed some of the heaviest fighting the country has seen in months.

Taliban fighters on Tuesday attacked the capital city of the western province - also called Farah - and overran several security checkpoints.

A battle between government forces and the fighters ensued, lasting for about 24 hours. A second Taliban assault was also launched in the early hours of Thursday.

Officials said the fierce fighting left at least 25 security personnel and 300 fighters dead. The numbers could not be independently verified. 

The city's main square was under Taliban control for hours before special forces backed by US airpower were able to drive the fighters out.

"Farah is getting back to normal," Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse said from the capital, Kabul on Saturday, after returning from the city, which is home to more than 50,000 people.

"Some shops are open and people are gradually coming out to the streets ... a couple of trucks delivering supplies - but the scars of what happened just four days ago are still there," she added.

Residents complain

While Afghan and allied US security forces have since regained control of the city, the Taliban offensive came as a shock to the government and security forces who seemed ill-equipped to deal with the situation.

"Reinforcement and commandos had to be brought in, and the US air force got involved overhead assisting the Afghan air force in driving the Taliban out of the city".

An official delegation consisting of the ministers of interior and defence, as well as the chief of intelligence and the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan headed to Farah on Saturday, where they met local residents.

According to Glasse, many complained that that officials had not listened to their warnings.

"People say they had warned the government that the Taliban was threatening the city," she said.

"They have asked for more attention from the government because they say this is such a key transit point."

"The ministers said they will bring all those things back to Kabul and that leaders who didn't perform will be changed. They recognise that the forces didn't do as well as they could have."

Meanwhile, authorities have shut down hundreds of schools across the western province. 

Mohammad Sadiq Halimi, deputy head of the department of education in Farah, said 411 educations facilities had been sealed off, according to DPA news agency.

The sites included 379 primary schools, 32 higher education institutes and a teacher training centre.

The education ministry said on Thursday the recent closures are temporary and aimed at protecting students and school staff. They are set to re-open at the end of Ramadan, around June 12.  

Some 1,000 schools are closed across the country due to the ongoing conflict, according to the ministry. 

Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban in recent years, as the fighters have seized several districts across the country.

The US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, but still provide support.

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