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Afghan forces go house-to-house clearing Taliban from Kunduz

Afghan security forces have been going house-to-house to flush out Taliban remnants in Kunduz after retaking the city. The quick fall of Kunduz to the Taliban has put to question the strength of Afghan forces.

"Today our security forces are deployed all over Kunduz," provincial police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told AFP. "We are searching the lanes of the city and residential houses looking for Taliban militants... We will target and kill them."

As Afghan forces retook control of Kunduz on Thursday in fierce fighting, they were tested in Badakhsan province in the northeast, where the Taliban captured Warduj district.

The stunning capture of Kunduz on Monday has put to question the strength of NATO trained Afghan forces only 10 months since the international security mission withdrew from combat operations to focus on a new train and assist mission.

President Ashraf Ghani's leadership is also in the spotlight as the United States, which maintains around 10,000 troops in the country in a train and assists capacity, plans to withdraw from Afghanistan next year.

Symbolic victory

The Taliban's lighting grab of Kunduz was a "symbolic victory" for an organization that has largely been confined to Pashtun areas in southern Afghanistan, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor told AP in an exclusive interview on Friday.

The leadership of the newly appointed head of the Taliban has been questioned since he took control of the group in August, after it was revealed the longtime leader of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had died two years ago.

"People who said we were a small force with an unchosen leader can now see how wrong they were about the potential and strength my people have," Mansoor said.

The capture of Kunduz showed that people supported the Taliban despite government "propaganda," Mansoor said, adding that the Taliban had avoided civilian casualties.

"We were making sure to cause minimum civilian casualties but then the police forces and government security forces, to hide their shameful defeat, started to open fire on everyone, not caring if they were killing the Taliban or innocent civilians," Mansoor said.

Mansoor's claims run against those of the Afghan government and Amnesty International, which on Thursday issued a report based on testimonies by civilians citing mass murder, abductions, rape, and house-to-house searches by Taliban death squads during the Islamist group's brief capture of the provincial capital.

Around 60 people are believed to have been killed and 400 injured, according to initial numbers provided by official from Afghanistan's health ministry.

cw/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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