Third Afghan Provincial Capital Captured by Taliban

Third Afghan Provincial Capital Captured by Taliban

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Taliban said they have captured the city of Kunduz, the third provincial capital the group has taken over in the last three days.

A Taliban statement on Sunday said they have captured the police headquarters, the governor’s compound and the prison in the city.

Local sources and journalists in Kunduz confirmed to Al Jazeera that Taliban fighters are present in the capital.

“Heavy clashes started yesterday afternoon, all government headquarters are in control of the Taliban, only the army base and the airport is with ANDSF [Afghan security forces] from where they are resisting the Taliban,” Amrudddin Wali, a member of Kunduz provincial assembly, said.

Health officials in Kunduz said 14 bodies, including those of women and children, and more than 30 injured people have been taken to hospital.

“We don’t know what’s going on outside because all our efforts and attention is on the patients coming in,” a doctor told Al Jazeera from a Kunduz hospital.

Sunday’s takeover comes after the group seized the provinces of Nimruz and Jawzjan in the last two days.

Kunduz had previously fallen to the group in 2015 and 2016.

On Saturday, the Taliban captured Jawzjan capital Sheberghan, the city’s deputy governor said, a day after Zaranj, capital of Nimruz, fell “without a fight”, according to its deputy governor.

The defense ministry said that on Saturday evening, US B-52 bombers struck several Taliban targets in Sheberghan.

People in Kunduz tried to flee ahead of the Taliban’s arrival, a resident told Al Jazeera, and are still afraid of going outside their houses.

“Though the fighting has calmed, it still feels like a military city,” the resident said, referring to the presence of Taliban forces in key parts of the city and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces carrying out operations in the city.

Afghanistan’s defense ministry released a video of an Afghan commando saying the ANDSF have been conducting coordinated operations in the province over the last 24 hours.

The commando said in the video the Taliban suffered heavy casualties in these operations as “they were trying to take key points” in the province, adding that the armed group’s “dream” would not be fulfilled.

“You should be certain that the Afghan forces are with you,” the commando tells the people of Kunduz.

Though the Taliban has taken two provincial capitals since Friday, Kunduz – in the far north – would be the most significant to fall since the armed group launched an offensive in May as foreign forces began the final stages of their withdrawal from the country.

The Taliban has gained vast parts of rural Afghanistan since launching a series of offensives in May to coincide with the start of the withdrawal.

Intense fighting continued in the capitals of the southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which the Taliban has been trying to take over for several weeks now.

A Helmand provincial council member said on Sunday that government air attacks damaged a health clinic and high school in Lashkar Gah, the capital.

The defense ministry statement also confirmed that air attacks were carried out in parts of the city that killed 54 Taliban fighters and wounded 23 others.

It made no mention of a clinic or school being bombed.

“We condemn the Taliban’s violent new offensive against Afghan cities. This includes the unlawful seizure of Zaranj, the capital of Afghanistan’s Nimroz province, the attack on Sheberghan, capital of Jowzjan province yesterday and today, and continuing efforts to take over Lashkar Gah in Helmand and provincial capitals elsewhere,” the statement read.

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