Afghan security forces have retreated to the outlying airport, leaving the Taliban effectively in control of Kunduz after they stormed the city on Monday, capturing government buildings and freeing hundreds of prisoners.
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan-The Taliban on Monday seized partial control of a major Afghan city Monday, witnesses said, the first time they have done so since being ousted from power by a U.S.-led invasion.
Taliban fighters have seized parts of Kunduz Province’s capital in northern Afghanistan after hours of clashes with security forces.
“The Taliban have taken the city but our forces are still putting up resistance in a few areas”, said Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, adding that promised reinforcements from Kabul were yet to arrive. Mahboobullah Mahboob, a member of a local council, said he and his family fled the city, also called Kunduz, shortly after 6 a.m. when militants neared their neighborhood.
According to CNN, Interior Ministry spokesman of Afghanistan, Sediq Sediqqi, said that the city of Kunduz has “fallen into the hands of enemies”.
Kunduz province has seen a number of attacks since April, with the Taliban joining forces with other insurgents.
Kunduz province, which borders Tajikistan and is a major transport hub for the north of the country, could offer the Taliban a critical new base of operations beyond their traditional southern strongholds. “They left soon after”, said the official, who declined to be identified.
Federal government officials had earlier issued strong denials that the Taliban had breached the city, insisting they were repelling the insurgents on the city’s outskirts.
Officials also reported that the Taliban has overrun the local prison and liberated all inmates.
As soon as they opened the main gate, they saw the armed Taliban group outside the gate.
“The entire city is under lockdown”, said Alhaj Aminullah Nabizada, who is active in a local political party, citing accounts from local security forces and residents.
In what appears to be a well-coordinated, multi-pronged attack, Taliban fighters converged from different directions, stunning security forces.
The United States military, which continues to fly warplanes and drones over Afghanistan, did not conduct any airstrikes near Kunduz on Monday, a spokeswoman for the military coalition here said.
Kunduz is an important northern hub of just over 300,000 residents, according to one Afghan government population estimate from 2013, although there has been a large outflow of refugees this past year and the population is most likely lower now.
Though Afghan security units were backed by helicopter gunships, the Taliban managed to take over a 200-bed hospital, officials said.
The Kunduz assault highlighted the resiliency of the Taliban following the revelation earlier this year that their reclusive longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died two years ago.
Militant violence has increased across Afghanistan since the departure of most U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces a year ago.