Afghan police: Taliban seize half of strategic northern city

On September 29, 2014, after a months-long stalemate over election results, Ashraf Ghani was sworn-in to replace former president Hamid Karzai. They have stepped up their campaign this year as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces drew down to just a few thousand troops.

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He also said the Taliban has gained the support of Kunduz residents, who were unhappy about local government corruption.

Militants captured the city’s airport after earlier taking the provincial governor’s office an the police headquarters, General Murad Ali Murad, the commander of Afghan ground forces, said in an interview in Kabul after a press briefing.

“Yes, the enemy is in the city and they have taken over the prison and other buildings, but reinforcements will be deployed and the city will be taken back”, said interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

“Taliban militants with loudspeakers were preaching their messages in every part of the city and marched with armored vehicles seized from the security forces”, he said. Control of Kunduz also carries symbolic value: “The city was one of the last Taliban enclaves to fall during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion”.

Kunduz province has seen a number of attacks since April, with the Taliban joining forces with other insurgents. The city, a provincial capital, is a connecting point for major roads that link central and northern Afghanistan.

Both Afghan government leaders and the U.S.-led coalition view the defense of Kunduz as a key test of whether security forces could prevent the Taliban from expanding its reach in the country. Earlier, Afghan police said the Taliban attacked Kunduz from three directions. A bitter internal dispute over the appointment of his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, has yet to be fully resolved, but seems to have had little impact on the battlefield. An eyewitness said he saw buildings on fire in the south of the city.

Google Kunduz is located near Afghanistan’s north-western border with Tajikistan.

The city´s streets were deserted as residents barricaded themselves indoors.

On Sunday 13 people were killed and 33 wounded at a volleyball match in the eastern province of Paktika. “Residents have to be assured they will not face any problem from our side”, Mujahid said on his official Twitter account. Artist Hussain Daoudi, an eyewitness to the assault, described “the sound of bullets and blasts nearly everywhere in the city”.

Monday’s attack in Kunduz appears to be one of the most significant mounted on a provincial capital by the Taliban, correspondents say.

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Taliban fighters briefly entered a hospital in the Kunduz assault and then posted photographs on social media. Afghan forces have been largely on their own since the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation concluded their combat mission at the end of previous year, shifting to a training and advising capacity.

Afghan official says Taliban fighters storm northern city