Afghan Forces Recapture Key Northern District
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Afghan forces on Tuesday regained control of a strategic district close to the restive northern city of Kunduz that fell to the Taliban earlier this month, official said.
The Taliban seized Qala-e-Zal in an assault that triggered fierce fighting with government forces, prompting hundreds of civilians to flee their homes and reigniting fears the insurgents could overrun Kunduz city for a third time, AFP reported.
"The governor's building, police headquarters and several key areas are cleared of terrorists, but the operation is still ongoing in other insecure areas of the district," the interior ministry said, adding that their operation began on Tuesday morning.
A Kunduz government spokesman said security forces were clearing out landmines planted by insurgents in the recaptured areas.
"Around 2,000 families have been displaced, with most relocating in Kunduz city. Some have also fled to other nearby districts," Assadullah Sadat, a member of the Kunduz provincial council, told AFP.
The Norwegian Refugee Council had earlier said that some displaced families were forced to sleep in the open while others were crammed inside the homes of relatives.
Taliban militants launched their annual "spring offensive" in late April, heralding a surge in fighting as the US tries to craft a new Afghan strategy and NATO considers sending more troops to break the stalemate against the resurgent militants.
The offensive normally marks the start of the fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle government forces. An attack on a military base in the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif left at least 135 security forces dead last month.
The Taliban briefly seized Kunduz city in September 2015, in their biggest victory since they were toppled from national power by a US-led invasion in 2001. They were able briefly to re-enter the city centre in October 2016 before once again being pushed back.