Taliban capture district in Kunduz province | News | DW | 20.08.2016
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Taliban capture district in Kunduz province

Security forces are said to be planning a counterattack to retake the district of Khan Abad in Kunduz province. The Afghan government is battling Taliban militants in 15 of the country's 34 provinces.

Taliban militants overran a district in the northeastern Kunduz province Saturday morning.

The militants launched a multipronged predawn attack that forced government troops to retreat from the district of Khan Abad to the provincial capital, also named Kunduz, about 19 miles (30km) away.

The governor of Khan Abad, Hayatullah Amiri, said his local forces could not hold off the militants without state help.

"The Taliban attacked the district from different positions, and we resisted for hours but we received no support," Amiri said. "The district fell to the Taliban."

Security forces are planning a counteroffensive to retake Khan Abad, according to Mohammadullah Bahej, a spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Local resident Abdul Satar said hundreds had fled their homes amid the fighting.

"The residents of the city are worried about their lives and safety," he said. "People are fleeing their homes and they have left their shops."

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the Kunduz provincial council, confirmed that hundreds of residents have fled the fighting. But where they are going is uncertain, as roads to the neighboring provinces are closed.

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He warned the government not to ignore Kunduz, saying "if the central government does not pay attention to Kunduz, the Taliban will overrun Kunduz city as they did last year."

Overrun by the Taliban

The provincial capital, Kunduz, was briefly overrun by the Taliban in 2015, and held for nearly two weeks before the militants were driven out by government forces, backed up by US air power and NATO troops.

It marked the first time since 2001 that the militants had succeeded in capturing a major city.

The episode underscored the Taliban's growing strength and the security forces' lack of readiness. They are now pretty much on their own since most international combat troops ended their mission in 2014.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the militants captured the district, along with weapons and military vehicles.

The Taliban also seized a district in neighboring Baghlan province, just south of Kunduz province, last week, and heavy fighting is ongoing in the southern Helmand and eastern Nangarhar provinces.

Meanwhile, in the capital, Kabul, a soldier was killed early Saturday by a sticky bomb placed on his vehicle, Kabul police said.

All told, Afghanistan's security forces are fighting the Taliban in at least 15 of the country's 34 provinces, according to the Defense Ministry.

US and Afghan officials maintain they will not allow another urban center to be taken by militants after the battle for Kunduz. But the militant's presence in the north of the country represents a worrying new trend for the government and its Western allies.

Since 2001 the Taliban insurgency had been confined to the southern part of the country.

bik/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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