Afghan civilians were increasingly leaving the northern city of Kunduz on Thursday to escape fighting between government forces and the Taliban, a battle now in its fourth day, officials said. The fighting in Kunduz, located on a key national crossroads, has raised concerns of a repeat scenario as last year, when it briefly fell to the Taliban. Insurgents at the time held Kunduz for three days, then resisted Afghan and US forces for almost three weeks before the city was brought fully back under government control.
This time, the insurgents, who launched a multi-pronged attack early on Monday, have been pushed back from the city’s south, said Gen. Qasim Jungalbagh, the police chief for Kunduz province. One Afghan solider was killed and another three wounded in overnight fighting, he added.
The head of the provincial council, Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, said gunbattles in the east and west of the city continued throughout the night, and that shortages of food and water are also forcing people out of the city.
The US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, said Afghan commandoes were clearing “isolated pockets of Taliban resistance” within the city today. The city’s hospital, which sits on the front line between government forces and the Taliban, was rocketed yesterday and its medical stocks destroyed. Hospital director Marzia Salam Yaftaly said the facility had admitted 210 wounded since the fighting began, two of whom died.
Since yesterday, about 1,200 people have left the city for neighbouring Takhar province, said the provincial refugee official, Murtaza Hamdard. “Most of them are staying in school buildings or with other families, but some are living out in the open,” Hamdard said and appealed for urgent aid.