Afghan officials: Clashes with Taliban continue in Kunduz
With American helicopters providing air support, Afghan forces battled the Taliban in the northern city of Kunduz for the third straight day on Wednesday, following the multipronged attack launched by insurgents earlier this week.
The fighting in Kunduz, which fell briefly to the Taliban a year ago, came as Afghanistan’s leaders and officials from over 70 nations gathered in Brussels, seeking to drum up billions of dollars for the cash-strapped Kabul government as it battles the Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption. Afghan Gen. Qasim Jungalbagh, the provincial police chief, said Taliban gunmen launched fresh attacks in Kunduz from the south and east early on Wednesday.
He said “clearance operations” had begun inside the city but that heavy clashes continued on the outskirts, “to the south and east of the city.”
Also on Wednesday, the Taliban began forcing people from their homes in an effort to start an exodus from Kunduz, similar to what happened a year ago when half the population of around 300,000 fled the city. “People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to the nearest place they feel safe” said Mohammad Yousuf Ayubi, the head of the provincial council.
Since pushing into Kunduz on Monday and briefly hoisting their flag at a main intersection, the Taliban were pushed back but their fighters remain hunkered down in residential homes, slowing the Afghan counter-offensive.
The US military was providing air support to Afghan forces, US Army Brig. Gen. Charlie Cleveland said. However, he described the fighting as “sporadic,” saying that since last night, “US forces have conducted two engagements from the air to defend friendly forces.” He did not provide further details.
Jungalbagh said 42 insurgents have been killed and more than 25 others wounded in the battles. Earlier, the Defense Ministry said five Afghan security personnel were killed and 13 others wounded.
Dr. Hamid Alam, Kunduz provincial department director, said that more than 160 civilians “wounded as a result of clashes” have been admitted to the city’s public hospital in the past three days. He gave no further details.