Hundreds of Taliban fighters launched a brazen attack on the northeastern Afghan city of Kunduz on Monday, trading heavy fire with police and soldiers in their third attempt this year to capture the provincial capital.
The siege came a day after a bomb attack on a volleyball match killed 13 and the Islamic State group carried out coordinated strikes against police in the country’s east, ending a brief lull in violence during the Muslim festival of Eid.
“The Taliban launched an attack on Kunduz city from several directions,” Kunduz provincial police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told AFP.
“So far 20 Taliban insurgents were killed in the fighting in different parts of Kunduz, and four Afghan security forces were confirmed wounded,” Hussaini said.
“Right now, heavy fighting is ongoing between our forces and the Taliban in Khanabad, Char Dara and Imam Sahib, the main entrances into the city of Kunduz,” he said, adding that “security forces are repelling” the militants.
Earlier the Taliban had seized several security checkpoints near the city, an AFP journalist in Kunduz said, though it was unclear if they had held on to their gains.
The city’s streets were deserted as residents barricaded themselves indoors.”The situation is very bad. The fighting is particularly fierce in the southeastern area of the city,” a Western NGO official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“There are still a few people on the streets but far less than usual.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks, adding their fighters had overrun several checkpoints and killed 12 Afghan soldiers. The toll could not be verified.
The militants were also laying siege to all the city’s checkpoints, police stations, and the governor’s headquarters, Mujahid added.
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