Taliban assault Afghanistan’s Kunduz city from three directions

It has a majority Pashtun population and had been a Taliban stronghold before the USA invasion in 2001.

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“Right now intensive gun battles are going on inside the city”. There were also reports of looting at jewelry stores, but it was not clear who exactly was looting.

The attack is the culmination of months of intense fighting that began in April, when the militants opened up new fronts to take territory in the north. Local sources said fighting could be heard inside the city from 3am. A few of the country’s best trained troops have been flown to the city to help in the offensive.

“They have surrounded the police force in district first of the city”. The fall of Kunduz would represent a major setback for state forces that have had difficulty holding off insurgent fighters since the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation took on more of a support role in Afghanistan a year ago.

This is the first time that IS fighters engaged with Afghan security forces since they made gains in the province.

This is just the latest in a series of clashes between insurgents and government fighters in the northeastern province, CNN reports.

It is the second time the city, which is the capital of the province bearing the same name, has come under Taliban attack this year. It is now not known if there are any American soldiers near Kunduz or whether they intend to take part in the battle.

Earlier, Deputy Provincial Governor Hamdullah Daneshi said the city of 300,000 people had been split in half by the fighting, with the Taliban occupying everything north of a major highway and the government maintaining control in the south.

He said reinforcements from neighboring provinces had already arrived in Kunduz city, with more on the way from other cities, including the capital, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

In addition, 25 Taliban fighters were killed, Sediqqi said, and two Afghan policemen died and four others were wounded.

Police spokesman in the province, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini in talks with Xinhua confirmed that the Taliban militants entered the city after suffering huge casualties.

Ibrahimi said that all Afghan security forces and provincial officials had pulled out of city and were lodged at an airport on the suburbs of city. 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. “We all headed towards our homes”, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Taliban insurgents said they have captured parts of the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz after staging a predawn coordinated attack from several directions.

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The insurgency has been infused by thousands of fighters who have been driven from neighbouring Pakistan because of the ongoing Pakistani military operation in that country’s tribal belt.

Afghan soldiers keep watch Monday in Kunduz. which has twice come under attack by the Taliban this year