Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fierce Battles in Afghan Region

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Forces loyal to Herat's governor claimed to have retaken control in the western city Monday after fierce factional fighting that killed Afghanistan's aviation minister and left as many as 100 people dead.

The governor's troops fought against those of militia commander Zaher Naib Zada, who said his forces were responsible for Sunday's fatal shooting of Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadiq, which sparked the clashes.

Fighters loyal to Governor Ismail Khan -- Sadiq's father -- took control Monday of Zada's militia barracks and detained 25 of his fighters, but the commander himself escaped capture, police chief Zia Mauddin Mahmud said by telephone.

Mahmud said 50 to 60 people died in hours of fighting with guns, rockets and tanks.

Zada, speaking by telephone Sunday, said the death toll was between 50 and 100. At daybreak Monday, no one was answering at Zada's number.

"The city of Herat is quiet," Mahmud said.

Either death toll would mark one of the worst bursts of violence under President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-allied government, still trying to assert control over regional militias nationwide since the late 2001 fall of the Taliban.

Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim had demanded an immediate cease-fire in the Herat fighting late Sunday, and ordered newly U.S.-trained Afghan National Army soldiers deployed from the capital to try to calm the city.

Some 600 Afghan army troops with ammunition belts and rifles were at the Kabul airport on Monday morning, and were set to take a U.S.-led coalition plane to the western city, a commander said. "We are going to keep the peace. We are not loyal to any side," said Major Abdul Qadir.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said Monday that German and Italian diplomats were sheltering at a U.S. base in Herat, and urged all parties "to remain calm and abide by the rule of law and avoid further bloodshed."

Karzai's shaky government has been rocked by the killing of Sadiq -- the third top figure, and second aviation minister, to die violently in office.

Presidential spokesman Khaleeq Ahmed said Sadiq had been shot Sunday in his car in unclear circumstances.

However, Zada said that his forces had killed Sadiq in a confrontation, after the minister went to Zada's home to fire him.

Afterward, Zada's forces and soldiers loyal to Sadiq started battling with machine guns, tanks and rockets for control of his division's military barracks, he said.