Source: MWC News
Afghan Taliban fighters, who launched an assault on the country’s northern provincial city of Kunduz, have hoisted their white banner over the main square, according to a witness and two security officials quoted by the Reuters news agency.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters have carried out early-morning raids on Kunduz, entering the northern city from three different directions and reportedly seizing large parts of the city.
An increased number of Afghan security forces are deployed to the city to fight against the Taliban and a big offensive is soon to be conducted to take back the parts in the group’s control, sources said.
Battles between government forces and the Taliban were raging about 500 metres from the governor’s compound, the deputy governor said, after he had fled to the city’s airport.
Taliban broke into the main prison in Kunduz, freeing hundreds of fellow fighters, two security officials told Reuters.
Several people, including police officers, have been killed, and scores wounded in the attacks.
Local reports suggest that the fighters have captured the provincial legislature building.
The armed fighters have also reportedly taken control of a 200-bed hospital in the city following the raid, a Taliban spokesman and a police source told Reuters.
Moein Marastial, a former parliament member from Kunduz, said that a university in Kunduz has also been taken over by the Taliban.
He also said the Taliban has gained the support of Kunduz residents, who were unhappy about local government corruption.
The city’s streets were deserted as residents barricaded themselves indoors.
“The situation is very bad. The fighting is particularly fierce in the southeastern area of the city,” a Western NGO official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
According to sources, Taliban fighters are searching houses in the city looking for government officials.
The attack is the second time this year that the Taliban threatened to seize Kunduz, which is the main city of Kunduz province.
The province is one of the most volatile provinces in the northern region of the country, with three districts reportedly under Taliban control.
The Taliban have been waging an armed struggle since a US-led invasion ousted them from power in late 2001, and have stepped up attacks during a summer offensive launched in late April against the Western-backed government in Kabul.
On Sunday, 13 people were killed and 33 wounded at a volleyball match in the eastern province of Paktika, while a splinter group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched coordinated attacks on police checkpoints in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Afghanistan’s NATO-trained police and army have been fighting armed rebels this year without the front-line help of foreign forces, which ended their combat mission in December 2014.
A residual force of around 13,000 remains for training and counterterrorism operations.
Peace overtures by the government of President Ashraf Ghani over summer ended in failure, as civilian casualties soared to a record high in the first half of 2015 according to a UN report.
It said 1,592 civilians were killed, a six percent fall over last year, while the number of injured jumped four percent to 3,329.