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Monday 24 October 2016

Afghanistan president vows to retake Kunduz from Taliban

Published 29/09/2015 | 07:30

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has vowed to retake Kunduz
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has vowed to retake Kunduz
Taliban fighters and young men take over an army truck on a street in Kunduz, Afghanistan (AP)

Afghanistan's president has vowed to retake a key northern city captured by the Taliban, saying the military has already launched a counter-offensive on Kunduz.

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President Ashraf Ghani says his security forces are "retaking government buildings ... and reinforcements, including special forces and commandos are either there or on their way there."

Mr Ghani spoke in a televised address to the nation a day after the Taliban captured the city of Kunduz in a multi-pronged assault that took the authorities and military officials by surprise.

Mr Ghani claimed that "the enemy has sustained heavy casualties" and urged his nation to trust Afghan troops and not give in to "fear and terror".

The US military has carried out at least one airstrike on the city "in order to eliminate a threat to the force", according to a spokesman.

Neither the US or Nato troops are believed to have an operational presence in the region, though the German military control a major base in the nearby city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Hundreds of Taliban launched a coordinated attack on Monday and, after a day of fierce fighting, managed to overrun government buildings and hoisted their flag in the city square.

The fall of the city of 300,000 - the first urban area taken by the Taliban since the 2001 US invasion ousted their regime - was also a major setback to Mr Ghani, who has staked his presidency on bringing peace to Afghanistan and seeking to draw the Taliban to peace talks.

Taliban gunmen are patrolling the streets of Kunduz, setting up checkpoints, searching for government loyalists and sealing off exit routes for anyone trying to escape.

In Kabul, the National Security Council is meeting to discuss the development.

Wahidullah Mayar, the spokesman for the Public Health Ministry said on his Twitter account that Kunduz hospitals received "172 wounded patients and 16 dead bodies so far".

Doctors Without Borders, the international charity, said its trauma centre in Kunduz received 129 wounded since early Monday morning, including 20 women and 39 children. Of the total, nine had died, said Kate Stegeman, an MSF field communications manager.

The Taliban issued a statement, attempting to reassure residents of Kunduz that they were safe. Hours after the fall, people had streamed out of the city.

But by Tuesday morning, roads were blocked and some government buildings set on fire.

Security analyst Ali Mohammad Ali described the Taliban takeover as "a shock but not a surprise because every province in Afghanistan is as fragile as Kunduz".

Afghan security forces have been sorely tested this year, following the withdrawal at the end of 2014 of international combat troops.

The Defence Ministry said government forces had already retaken some parts of the city early on Tuesday, including a newly-built police headquarters and the prison in Kunduz. Reinforcements, including special forces, were sent to the region from across the country.

MSF and the International Red Cross said they had evacuated some of their international staff from Kunduz. All UN staff were evacuated on Monday.

Press Association

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