KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, April 15 – According to provincial officials 100s of Taliban militants have launched an attack to seize the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, noting that only last year they have captured and held it for several days in a major blow to President Ashraf Ghani’s government. Also past then they threatened to take Helmand province in the southern heartland of the insurgency after overrunning several districts.
The offensive around Kunduz started days following the group’s announcement of their annual spring offensive, declaring to launch extensive attacks using suicide bombers and guerilla’s to drive the Western-backed government from power.
Kunduz police Chief Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh said there is heavy fighting going on but the militants have failed to capture any areas and police are pushing them back. The fighting broke out on Thursday in six districts in Kunduz province, a crucial northern stronghold close to the Tajikistan border, as well as around the provincial capital, with Afghan security forces battling militants through the night.
Hence in regard of last year’s attacks, officials took to the airwaves to try to head off panic among the public. Jangalbagh stated “We will assure our people that the situation is under control and we will never allow the catastrophe that happened last year”.
Tإhe Taliban are on stronger ground today, much stronger than at any point since they were driven from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. Also the insurgency has gained strength since the withdrawal of international troops from combat at the end of 2014.
Officials said that the highway between Kunduz and neighbouring Takhar province was also blocked. On the other side Imamuddin Qureshi, chief of Kunduz’s Imam Saheb district, said several security outposts had already fallen to insurgents and called on the government in Kabul to send reinforcements and air support instantly.
In other districts there were outposts overrun and security forces further fled to Kunduz city to regroup, Khanabad district chief Ayatullah Amiri said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said militants had captured outposts in six districts and that three bomb blasts had killed seven members of the Afghan security forces just outside Kunduz. Noting that those claims could not be verified immediately.
The brief capture of Kunduz last September was one of the biggest territorial gains made by insurgents since they were ousted from power.