A Taliban attack on a critical power line supplying the Afghan capital has plunged large swathes of Kabul into darkness, government officials told NBC News Wednesday.
The blackout appeared the mark the first time the Taliban managed to majorly sabotage Kabul's main power supply and came after Afghan security forces launched a major offensive against them in Baghlan province.
Mahmood Haqmal, spokesman for Baghlan's provincial governor, told NBC News that the Taliban "blew up several power pylons" after Afghan security forces launched operations to clear the area of insurgents.
A Taliban spokesperson denied responsibility for destroying power lines, blaming Afghan government forces.
Officials at state-owned utility company Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat (DABS) said the attack cut off Kabul's main source of power, from Uzbekistan.
“More than 60% of Kabul’s electricity is imported from Uzbekistan, unfortunately as of last night we have lost that source and now have to rely on domestic power supplies,” said Abdul Ahad, Deputy Director of DABS.
Ahad said that the Taliban previously had moved to cut power supplies against smaller cities such as Jalalabad and Kandahar — but never succeeded on such a large scale in Kabul.
Restoring power supply to the city could take up to three weeks — and can only get underway once the area has been cleared of insurgents to allow engineers access, DABS officials said.
Electricity is the most affordable source of heat and power for cooking for Kabul's estimated 5 million residents facing a bitterly cold winter.