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3 Oct, 2016 13:05

Taliban raises its flag over Kunduz before being pushed back by Afghan forces

Afghan security forces say they have now taken back control of central Kunduz, which fell into the hands of the Taliban, following an audacious assault on the city on Monday. Fighting continues around the key transport hub.

The recapture of the central roundabout was announced by presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi, hours after the Islamists had boasted that they had taken control of the heart of the northern city.

“Kunduz main intersection has just been overrun by Mujahideen, attacks underway on governor compound and police HQ,” said a tweet from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Mujahid later posted a short video showing armed men in shawls praying and freely walking around what appeared to be a built-up part of Kunduz, a city of more than 250,000 people and a strategically important transport waypoint in the north of the country.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense later questioned the veracity and date of the images.

Late on Monday, a Taliban source told journalist Wassim Nasr that only the airport remained under firm government control. Other eyewitnesses claimed that military equipment was being withdrawn or left to the attackers as officials and troops fled the city.

Taliban forces launched a surprise assault on the city from four directions at dawn on Monday, and by afternoon of the same day, officials said that “most” of Kunduz had been captured. Kabul announced that it was sending reinforcements, and Resolute Support, the NATO mission in the country said that “US enablers, including air power, are in position and prepared to assist in Kunduz as needed.”

According to Pentagon estimates, around 10 percent of Afghanistan’s 30 million people are living under Taliban control, and a further 20 percent in its conflict zones. If captured, Kunduz would be the biggest urban center under Taliban command.

The Taliban captured Kunduz almost exactly a year ago, but pulled out a fortnight later after coming from an intense counter-offensive from government forces, in what was at the time its highest-profile offensive since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

The latest attack comes just as the fragile unity government of President Ashraf Ghani marks two years in power. It was put in place following Washington-mediated talks that followed a contested election in 2014, in which both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory.

"The Taliban is getting stronger and stronger as there is no communication and coordination in Afghan forces, and corruption is at an all-time high at the defense ministry and the interior ministry," Faiz Mohammad Zaland from Kabul University told RT.