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Taliban fighters launch offensive against northern Afghan city of Kunduz

Afghan police
Afghan police stand guard during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz on Monday.
(Bashir Khan Safi / AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Taliban fighters launched an offensive against the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz before dawn Monday, putting the city back at risk of falling out of government control, officials said. 

Taliban fighters reached the center of Kunduz late in the day, and Afghan forces, including police, soldiers and intelligence officers, were responding, said Mohammad Amin, commander of the quick response unit for the National Directorate of Security in the province.

“Around a dozen security forces have been killed so far, but Taliban have suffered more casualties,” Amin said. 

Aminullah Nabizada, provincial council member, said that high-ranking government officials, including the provincial governor, “fled to the airport.”

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Nabizada said Afghan forces’ helicopter gunships struck Taliban positions, but Afghan ground forces had retreated from their checkpoints in western parts of the city.

Arsala, a Kunduz resident who goes by one name, said Taliban fighters had entered his house. 

“One of the buildings in my neighborhood was destroyed by an airstrike, and I’m scared that my house could be the next target of gunships,” he said. 

The U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement, “We are aware of reports of ongoing sporadic fighting in Kunduz and are coordinating closely with our Afghan partners to assist.”

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Kunduz governor Asadullah Omarkhil said 200 Afghan commandos were preparing an assault against the Taliban to attempt to push the insurgents out of the city.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement that a police officer was killed and four others injured in the fighting.

Kunduz was briefly captured by the Taliban last year. Monday’s offensive came a year to the day after the U.S. military launched an airstrike against Kunduz that struck a hospital belonging to Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. 

The Taliban was also mounting an offensive in the southern province of Helmand. There, the Nawa district fell into Taliban hands early Monday, according to reports. 

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Officials said the district police chief and three other members of Afghan forces were killed in the fighting, but they denied the district had fallen. 

Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the governor in Helmand, said Afghan forces had control of district headquarters. 

Nawa is 15 miles away from the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah and is one of the top opium-producing districts. Lashkar Gah has been surrounded by Taliban insurgents for the last four days.

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Faizy is a special corespondent. Special correspondent Ehsanullah Ehsan contributed to this report from Kunduz.

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UPDATES:

11:30 a.m.: Updated with new details about the situation in Kunduz.

This article was originally published at 2:50 a.m.

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