Pockets of Taliban fighters held out overnight against Afghan government forces in the northern city of Kunduz, a police official said on Tuesday, a day after the militants pushed deep into the city centre.
Taliban militants slipped past government defences early on Monday and occupied or attacked central areas of Kunduz, almost exactly a year after they briefly captured the city in one of their biggest successes of the 15-year war.
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The attack in Kunduz, as well as Taliban gains in areas of Helmand and Uruzgan where they also threaten provincial capitals, has underlined the insurgents’ growing strength and exposed weaknesses in the government, which is meeting international donors in Brussels this week to try to secure billions of dollars in additional aid.
Backed by US special forces and air support as well as warplanes of their own, Afghan soldiers and police sought to clear the city overnight, said Kunduz police chief Qasim Jangalbagh.
Taliban fighters, seeking to reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster, remained in several areas of the city but Afghan forces had made progress, he said.
“We have received reinforcement and have air support,” Jangalbagh said. “More then 25 enemies are killed so far and we have retaken several places. We are committed to clear the city.”
Three members of the government security forces had been killed, with another eight wounded, he reported.
As of late Monday night, the US military command in Kabul said it had yet to conduct air strikes in Kunduz against what the Pentagon called a “Western-movie style shoot-them-up” raid by the Taliban.
American special forces as well as aircraft were positioned near the city to provide support if needed, officials said.