MAIMANA (Xinhua): At least three police officers and four Taliban militants were killed during clashes in Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab overnight, a local official said Friday.

“Hundreds of militants stormed a key police checkpoint in Dawlat Abad district Thursday night, causing heavy gunfight.

The clashes caused three policemen and four militants killed,” a provincial council official, Sibghatullah Selab, told Xinhua.

An unknown number of police personnel and four police vehicles were captured by Taliban, he said.

Security forces launched a search operation early Friday to track the fleeing militants in the area. The province, 425 km northwest of Kabul, has been the scene of heavy clashes between Taliban and security forces from time to time.

Fighting has escalated in Afghanistan as the Taliban insurgency spreads from its traditional strongholds in the south and east to the once peaceful region in the north, where Taliban have been recruiting from the youth.

Meanwhile, at least nine Taliban militants have been killed after Afghan National Army troops launched a cleanup operation in southern province of Helmand, Afghan Ministry of Defence said Friday.

“The raid was conducted Thursday on the outskirts of provincial capital Lashkar Gah city after intelligence tips confirmed militants’ activity at the areas,” the ministry said in a statement.

No security force member or civilian was hurt during the operation.

Helmand, notorious for poppy growing, is also a known Taliban stronghold.

The militant group has yet to respond to the report.

Afghan forces and NATO and US-led coalition troops continued in mopping-up operations as the Taliban militant group has been attempting to take territory and consolidate its positions ahead of winter in the Central Asian country.