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Taliban fighters launch assault on Afghan city of Kunduz

The Taliban has launched an assault on the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz, according to agency reporters and officials. The attack comes one year after the Taliban briefly captured the city in a lightning offensive.

Fighters mounted a coordinated attack on Kunduz early on Monday - even entering the city, a senior city police official told Reuters news agency.

"We are putting all our efforts together to push them back," Sheer Ali Kamal said, adding that the attack began around midnight local time (19:30 UTC Sunday) and that fighting within the city was ongoing.

DW correspondent in Kunduz, Ahmad Yama Shirzad, said, "The Taliban are fighting over control of the governor's office, police headquarters and the National Directorate of Security [Afghanistan's primary intelligence agency] in Kunduz city." At least two civilians were killed and over 40 wounded and some people had fled the area. Many people however, were still stuck in their homes, Shirzad added. There were also reports that the Taliban had blocked many highways connecting Kunduz to other Afghan cities.

Taliban militants clashed with Afghan government troops in the southern and eastern approaches to the city, reported a correspondent with the news agency AFP. Afghan army helicopters were flying over the city, where streets were empty and shops remained closed. News agency Reuters cited witnesses as seeing Taliban fighters armed with AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The attack comes one year after the Taliban took over Kunduz in a lightning offensive which lasted for two days. The city is the only provincial capital to fall under the control of the Islamist militants since they were ousted from power in 2001.

Speaking to DW, Afghan parliament member Fatima Aziz said that Kunduz had a very high strategic value for the Taliban. Recently, the militants have increased operations in different parts of Afghanistan, including the strategic province of Helmand where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has been under threat.

mg, rs/msh  (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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