Taliban press their advantage in Kunduz

2015-09-30 20:13
Taliban fighters search passengers and civilian vehicles in a check point in Kunduz. (AP)

Taliban fighters search passengers and civilian vehicles in a check point in Kunduz. (AP)

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Kabul - Taliban forces pressed their advantage in the key northern city of Kunduz on Wednesday, launching further assaults on government forces and ambushing reinforcements sent from the capital, officials said.

They also captured a military base on the outskirts of the city, two days after taking Kunduz itself, the capital of the strategic province with the same name.

"Bala-e-Hisar [military camp] has fallen to the Taliban, and around 60 national army soldiers have surrendered to the Taliban forces," said Sayed Asadullah Sadat, a member of the Kunduz provincial council.

"The soldiers made a deal to leave half of their weapons and ammunition to the Taliban in exchange for their lives," said another member of the provincial council, Aminullah Ayuddin.

The base is located north of the city and was vital to secure the highway to Sher Khan Bandar, a port town on the border with Tajikistan.

The Taliban took control of Kunduz, a city of 300 000 people, after a surprise assault involving hundreds of fighters pushed government forces back to the local airport.

"The Taliban still hold their positions," Sadat said. "The reinforcements from Kabul and Takhar have been ambushed and could not reach Kunduz.

"I seriously doubt the government's capability to retake Kunduz if they cannot even send reinforcements successfully," he said.

Afghan forces and government officials were besieged on the hill where the airport is located as the insurgents launched assaults all through Tuesday night.

US and Nato coalition forces were supporting Afghan troops trying to retake the city from the militants, an official said.

"There are limited coalition forces in the Kunduz area advising and assisting," said Colonel Brian Tribus, a spokesperson for US forces in Afghanistan.

US forces conducted three air strikes in Kunduz, two of them near the airport, "for coalition force protection reasons", he said.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesperson for the Afghan Public Health Ministry, said 43 bodies had been taken to Kunduz hospitals, which had treated 338 injured people.

The toll did not include at least 17 Afghan security forces who had been killed, the Defence Ministry said.

Local Taliban commander Mullah Usman said the Islamist militia was in control of most of the city.


Meanwhile, the Afghan parliament summoned members of the security council - including the intelligence chief, the interior minister and the acting defence minister - for questioning about the fall of Kunduz.

"It is shameful how the government is dealing with the situation in Kunduz," lawmaker Iqbal Safi said during a televised session. He called on President Ashraf Ghani to quit.

Rahmatullah Nabil, the head of the Afghan spy agency, apologised for failing to thwart the Taliban attack.

Lawmakers also asked for an official investigation into why Kunduz fell and where the Taliban got their weapons.

Although the Afghan government promised a counter-offensive on Kunduz, security forces did not make any headway Tuesday, officials said.

Foreign troops supported Afghan forces from the ground and from the air during the night time battles, Kunduz police spokesperson Sayed Sarwar Hussaini said. 

Essa Khan, a Kunduz resident, said he saw "a lot of injured people, mostly civilians, running for treatment to hospitals" after the US air strikes.

"The city is totally shut," he said. "People do not have food to eat and gas to cook. What is left with them is quickly depleting."

"Last night, the Taliban attacked the airport, but there were air strikes, which caused fatalities among the Taliban and forced them to retreat," he said, adding that government forces were all hunkered down on the airport hill.

'Nowhere to go'

"Right now, I can't even escape to any neighbouring provinces because there is heavy fighting going on at the highway," he said. "There is nowhere to go."

Baryalai, another resident, said fighting died down at midday.

"Anything the government says is a lie because we have not seen any reinforcements coming from any provinces," said Baryalai, who lives near airport hill.

A top UN official in Afghanistan said he was deeply concerned about the situation in Kunduz. 

"The reports of extra-judicial executions, including of health care workers, abductions, denial of medical care and restrictions on movement out of the city are particularly disturbing," said Nicholas Haysom, the special representative of the UN secretary general.

A statement from his office said up to 6 000 civilians have fled the city to escape the fighting.

Kunduz was the first major city to be taken by the Taliban in the 14 years of conflict that has followed their ouster in a 2001 US-led invasion. The city's fall highlights the Islamist movement's ability to mount large operations away from its rural strongholds.

Read more on:    taliban  |  afghanistan

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