LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan - Taliban insurgents attacked police checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the main city of the southern Afghan province of Helmand early on Sunday, ending weeks of relative calm during the annual opium harvest.
Helmand has been one of the main targets of the Taliban, which has forced government security forces to pull back from several districts and concentrate around Lashkar Gah and the main highway that runs through the province.
The attack in the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah, during the early hours of the morning, set off a three-hour gunbattle during which the Taliban said they overran two checkpoints, destroyed an armored personnel carrier and captured a large amount of equipment.
Reports of casualties varied. Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said 14 Taliban fighters were killed and another 22 wounded before the insurgents were driven off, with four police killed and another seven wounded.
The Taliban said 15 police, including a police commander, were killed and several others wounded, while only one Taliban fighter was killed and another two wounded.