Taliban attacks Kunduz; Afghanistan on high alert

RSTV Bureau

Afghan-parl-attackThe Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the city of Kunduz in northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, setting off a gun-battle with Afghan forces that was still underway hours later.

The assault came just a day before President Ashraf Ghani is due to meet world powers at a major donors conference in Brussels.

Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said that at least one policeman had been killed and another four wounded in the ongoing fighting. It said in a statement that the situation is being monitored in case reinforcements are needed.

Kunduz is the capital of the strategically important Kunduz province, a breadbasket region that borders Tajikistan to the north and sits on a major crossroad in the country.

The city was overrun by Taliban in September 2015, sending shockwaves through the country as it was the first time the militant group had taken a major urban center since launching the insurgency 15 years ago.

Kunduz came under threat again in April, when Afghan forces aided by US troops and air power pushed the Taliban back into the districts around the provincial capital.

Mahmood Danish, spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunduz, said the insurgents staged the attack from different directions but that security forces managed to keep them at bay.

The Taliban were using residential areas in the assault and “our security forces are being very careful to avoid civilian casualties while shooting back at the enemy,” he said. The Afghan air force was also supporting the ground forces in the fight, he added.

Mohammadullah Bahej, head of the police coordination office in Kunduz, said security forces faced a four-prong Taliban attack. “Right now, the battles are underway in two areas on the outskirt of the city,” he added.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the insurgents had captured several checkpoints in the city.

The US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said the situation in Kunduz was being monitored but added: “We are not observing evidence via our internal means to support the reports that Kunduz is under significant attack.”

Later, Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the Kunduz provincial council, said heavy battles were taking place and those government offices, schools and shops have all been closed.

“People are shocked by this attack and unfortunately they can’t go anywhere, all roads are closed,” Ayubi added. He said parts of the city were empty and highways south toward Baghlan and east to Takhar provinces were closed amid the clashes on both sides of the city