Afghan forces claim regaining control of Kunduz city
KABUL: Afghan officials say they have regained control of key areas of the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. An operation launched overnight saw forces recapture government landmarks and inflict heavy casualties on the militants, officials said.
But the Taliban has insisted it still control large parts of the city. The city’s capture on Monday by the militant group was a huge blow to President Ashraf Ghani, coming on the first anniversary of his taking power.
If confirmed this represents a crucial victory for the Afghan army, its biggest test since the withdrawal of coalition forces back in December last year.
And it would be a dramatic turn-around. On Wednesday it looked as if retaking Kunduz would involve a tough battle. Eyewitnesses reported Taliban fighters mining roads and digging in to strategic positions ready to defend their prize.
Yet the Afghan government is today claiming that its forces swept the Taliban out of Kunduz in a couple of hours.
It is jubilant at what will be seen as a crucial victory in the battle against the Taliban insurgency. “This is a huge blow for the Taliban”, Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the interior minister said. “It proves Afghan special forces are elite fighters who can win battles.”
The government assault began overnight with fighters infiltrating the city and launching a series of simultaneous attacks from different positions.
Kunduz police chief spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told BBC Afghan on Thursday that the military had retaken the governor’s office, the police chief’s office and the intelligence agency building, adding: “Taliban bodies are lying around.”
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted that the city had been re-taken. He later said that 200 Taliban fighters were killed in the operation and an operation to “clear the city” of the last pockets of resistance was ongoing and could take some days.
But the Taliban denied what it called “enemy claims regarding the Kunduz situation”.
“Mujahideen [Taliban fighters] are resisting in the city’s security circle,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that the militant group still controlled most of the city and surrounding districts.
Khalid Amiri, the commander of Afghan National Army Special Forces Unit told TOLOnews in a telephonic interview that security forces sustained no casualties during the operation to retake Kunduz city but reports indicate that hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed and injured in the assault.
“Our forces sustained no casualties but we caused heavy casualties for the enemy,” said Amiri.
Amiri said that the retake operation stared at about 10pm local time on Wednesday from the Kunduz airport. Special forces advanced on the city with the support of coalition air support.
“Fortunately, there was less resistance and after bringing heavy casualties to the enemy we were able to retake control of the police headquarters and the governor’s building. But then the enemy fled and finally we reached the Kunduz city square and we lowered the Taliban flag and once again raised Afghanistan’s flag,” said Amiri.
According to him, he asked the people of Kunduz and government officials to return to work and carry on with their daily lives.