Taliban insurgents control key northern city of Afghanistan

September 30, 2015 10:59 am

 

Taliban fighters freed from prison walk through Kunduz. Picture / AP

Taliban insurgents have seized control of key facilities across a
major city in northern , driving back stunned security forces
in a multi-pronged attack that also sent Afghan officials and United
Nations personnel fleeing for safety. Collapse of Kunduz seen as huge blow for Kabul Government and a sign of insurgents’ power on battlefield

The fall of Kunduz, the hub
for the country’s grain region and other important crops, would be a
huge blow to the Western-backed Government in Kabul and give Taliban
insurgents a critical base of operations beyond their traditional
strongholds in Afghanistan’s south.
For the moment, much of the city is in Taliban hands, with Afghan authorities left struggling over how to turn the tide.
Kunduz had “collapsed” into Taliban control, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AP.
Afghan
security officials said government forces had withdrawn in attempts to
avoid civilian casualties and planned a counteroffensive seeking to
regain Kunduz – a city that has already been the target of Taliban
attacks twice this year.

“We are prepared and measures have been taken to recapture the city,” Deputy Interior Minister Ayoub Salangi told reporters.
Both
Afghan government leaders and the United States-led coalition view the
defence of Kunduz as a key test of whether security forces can prevent
the Taliban from expanding its reach in the country.
One Afghan
official said Taliban fighters had control of all major government
buildings in the city and security forces had retrenched to try to
defend the airport of the provincial capital, about 240km north of
Kabul.
“The Taliban have taken key government buildings such as
the police and intelligence headquarters and burned down some of them,”
said Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council.
The
assault appears to be the first time in the 14-year Taliban insurgency
that large groups of fighters managed to penetrate deep into a major
Afghan city with significant ground forces rather than carrying out
isolated strikes and suicide bombings.
A statement from the Taliban said it would not seek retribution against local police or military officials.
The attack displayed the Taliban’s battlefield power and co-ordination.
“This
will have a lot of impact on morale on all sides,” said Attiqullah
Amarkhail, a retired Afghan general and military analyst. “Government
forces may lose morale while opposition forces’ morale will be boosted.”
But he noted Taliban gains did not necessarily foreshadow “the fall of
the entire north or the fall of the Government”.
Dominic Medley,
spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said
all UN staff were evacuated from the area as security deteriorated.
Taliban
fighters also overran the jail and freed hundreds of prisoners. Some
inmates were seen walking down streets with their belongings.
In
June, the Taliban briefly gained control of two of the city’s six
districts. Within days, however, Afghan security officials had regained
control of the areas.

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