Taliban leave Kunduz 'to protect locals'
The Afghan Taliban said they were withdrawing from the centre of the northern city of Kunduz yesterday in order to protect civilians.
The Taliban have mounted a wave of attacks in the capital Kabul and beyond since the withdrawal of most foreign troops last year, culminating in the seizure of Kunduz in a carefully orchestrated offensive at the end of last month.
Though the Taliban only controlled the city for three days, fighting between the militants and Afghan security forces continued for two weeks, driving tens of thousands of residents to seek safety in neighbouring provinces.
The Taliban, seeking to re-establish their hard-line Islamist regime after it was toppled by US-led military intervention in 2001, said their decision to move out of Kunduz was not a sign of defeat.
"We assure our people and the world that we are able to seize the city," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
"Pulling back from Kunduz...is based on consultation in order to protect civilians from bombings and prolonging it is a waste of humans and ammunitions.""