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KABUL — Insurgents blew up a key transmission line that brings electricity from Uzbekistan to Kabul after Afghan government troops launched an operation to clear the militants from an area north of the capital, officials said Wednesday.

Abdul Satar Barez, governor of northern Baghlan province, said Taliban guerrillas blew up an electricity transmission tower and power lines on Tuesday in retaliation for the operation.

“The security forces will very soon clear the area of Taliban presence to fix the power again,” he said.

Barez said government forces this week launched a clearing operation outside of Baghlan’s capital of Pul-e Khumri in the Dand-i-Ghori area, which has been under Taliban control for months.

A strategic highway linking Kabul to Kunduz and other northern cities crosses through that area. The road, the only one that traverses the Hindu Kush mountain range, was used to deploy army reinforcements to Kunduz in October, when Taliban guerrillas occupied the city of 300,000 for two weeks.

The Taliban did not claim responsibility for Tuesday’s blast, which resulted in power cuts in much of Kabul on Wednesday. There was no mention of fighting in Baghlan on the Taliban website.

Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, Afghanistan’s state-owned utility company, said the damage — which highlights the vulnerability of the national electricity-transmission infrastructure — had significantly cut the amount of electricity flowing from Uzbekistan.

A company statement said it expected neighboring Tajikistan to make up for some of the loss through an alternative power line. It said a maintenance crew had arrived in the area and would quickly fix the line once its members were allowed access by the security forces.

Last winter Kabul suffered from rolling blackouts for over a month after heavy snows and avalanches damaged a number of steel-lattice towers carrying transmission lines through the mountains from power suppliers in Central Asia.

lekic.slobodan@stripes.com

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