Taliban push on, seizing strategic hubs & key roads across Afghanistan
Heavy fighting has been raging in Afghanistan all week long as Taliban militants set their sights on capturing Kunduz, one of the country's largest cities and key transport hubs. The extremists have seized four districts in different parts of Afghanistan.
Kunduz, with a population of around 300,000, became the first major urban center to fall to the Taliban in 14 years on Monday. The Afghan Taliban leader told AP that the capture of the northern city was a “symbolic victory” for the insurgents.
The US military supported Afghan forces with airstrikes in a bid to push the militants back. However, clashes continued to rage on Friday despite Afghan government claims they had retaken Kunduz, AFP reported. Most of the Talban appear to have fled the city after the troops moved in on Thursday, taking looted vehicles, weapons and ammunition with them.
At least 60 people were killed and 466 wounded in the Kunduz fighting, the spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, Wahidullah Mayar, wrote on Twitter on Friday. According to the government, 200 Taliban fighters were killed. Local residents were forced to hide in their basements as gunfights erupted around the city, with electricity and water cut off since Monday.
Three staff from Doctors Without Borders were killed and 30 were missing in a suspected US airstrike near a hospital in Kunduz on Friday night. NATO coalition spokesman Colonel Brian Tribus admitted a US airstrike may have caused accidental “collateral damage.”
READ MORE: ‘Collateral damage’: At least 9 MSF staff killed in suspected US airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Taliban militants have taken control over the Baharak district in the Afghan province of Badakhshan, local media reported on Friday. Baharak is some 40km from the provincial capital Faizabad. The district witnessed heavy clashes with Taliban militants, with numerous reports suggesting that the area fell to the insurgents’ control.
The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that militants killed 50 soldiers and captured 28 checkpoints in the Badakhshan province, which has been fiercely fought over for years. The governor of the Badakhshan province, Shahwaliullah Adeeb, said that a Taliban commander acting as a “shadow governor” of the province had been killed in an airstrike, Afghan News Agency Khaama Press (KP) reported.
On Thursday, the Taliban took their fourth Afghan district in 48 hours – Warduj – one of the most restive districts in Badakhshan province, the Pajhwok Afghan news agency reported. The Afghan security forces have reportedly retreated from the district.
Taliban militants have carried out numerous attacks in Wardoj district during recent months. One of the deadliest attacks on Afghan security forces check posts was carried out in April, when at least 23 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed, according to KP.
Earlier this week, the insurgents also overran the Tala wa Barfak and Qala Zal districts in northern Afghanistan, adjacent to the Tajikistan border, and the Khwaja Ghar district northwest of Kabul, Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported, citing officials and local residents.
An unnamed former jihadist commander from Tala wa Barfak district told Pajhwok News that the insurgents had driven out security personnel and civil servants. “When I came to the Shotor Jangal area of Dushi district, the Taliban had blocked the road...”
The Taliban reportedly said they had seized two tanks, weapons and ammunition in the district. According to the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, several security personnel were casualties during the clashes.