Afghan troops 'retake Kunduz district from Taliban'

Afghan forces leave Kunduz's Charkhab area to engage the Taliban Image copyright EPA
Image caption Afghan forces leave Kunduz's Charkhab area to engage the Taliban

Afghan government forces have recaptured a key district of the northern province of Kunduz from the Taliban, the provincial governor says.

Asadullah Omarkhel's announcement came hours after Khanabad district was seized by Taliban fighters.

But local sources told the BBC that Taliban fighters were still present near the district headquarters.

The newly arrived government forces aimed to open the road link to the city of Kunduz, the governor said.

Afghanistan's independent Tolo TV news channel also reported that government troops had recaptured Khanabad, which is about 30km (19 miles) east of Kunduz.

Earlier on Saturday the Taliban attacked from several directions, forcing government troops to retreat to Kunduz city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last year.

Widespread fighting

The Taliban have made gains since international troops officially ended their active fighting role in 2014.

Afghan security forces are currently battling the insurgents in nearly half of the country's 34 provinces.

Earlier this week, the Taliban captured a district in neighbouring Baghlan province and there has also been fighting in Helmand in the south and in eastern Nangarhar province.

Kunduz is one of Afghanistan's largest cities and has long been a strategically important transport hub for the north of the country.

But it has always held symbolic significance for the Taliban because it was a key northern stronghold before 2001, when the group was ousted from power.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Taliban fighters swept into Kunduz city last September, brushing security forces aside

Hundreds of civilians from the area have reportedly fled east towards Takhar province.

A spokesman for Takhar's police force said measures were being taken there to counter any Taliban attack.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Kunduz city said some officials were fleeing to the airport there as fighting had now reached the gates of the city itself.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of Kunduz provincial council, told AP: "If the central government does not pay attention to Kunduz, the Taliban will overrun Kunduz city as they did last year."

Taliban fighters freed more than 600 prisoners in their attack on Kunduz city last September, among them nearly 150 insurgent fighters.

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