Kabul: Fierce gunbattles raged for a second day today in Afghanistan’s embattled northern city of Kunduz while in the country’s south, insurgents killed 12 policemen at checkpoints around the Helmand provincial capital and seized another district they had attacked a day earlier.
The timing of the coordinated assaults was particularly poignant, coming a year after the Taliban captured and held parts of Kunduz before the city was fully liberated weeks later with the help of US airstrikes.
In the latest attack in Helmand, Taliban fighters besieged police checkpoints around the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah late last night, killing 12 policemen and wounding another 11, according to Haji Gran, chief of the city’s police district 2.
Lashkah Gar has been under threat of Taliban takeover for months as insurgents have been slowly taking control of Helmand since the beginning of the year, with some officials saying that 85 percent of the province is now under Taliban control – or 12 of its 14 districts.
That includes Khanashin district in the south of the province, which the provincial spokesman, Omar Zwak, said had fallen to the Taliban after coming under attack yesterday. In recent days, he said, around 45 members of Afghan security forces have been killed in fighting there and more than 15 have been taken captive.
In Kunduz, the Taliban began their attack from all directions early on Monday. They briefly raised a flag over a main intersection before being repelled from the city center.
Today, fierce fighting was still underway with Taliban gunmen using residential homes as hideouts in a number of areas, slowing down the efforts of Afghan security forces to repel them from the city, said the Interior Ministry’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi.
The Afghan forces were “trying to secure the city,” but progress was slow and difficult. At least 30 insurgents had been killed in the two days of fighting, he said. It was unclear how many Taliban were involved in the attack. Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said the city has become a battlefield, with fighting going on in many areas.
“We can’t go to our (council) office because the area is under the control of the Taliban,” he said, adding that council members instead were gathering at a location about 1.5 kilometres from the city. The militants have planted mines around the city, making movement extremely difficult, he said. “Local people are trapped in their homes.”
Gen Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Defence Ministry, said five Afghan security personnel had been killed in the fighting and 13 others wounded so far.