Scores flee pitched battles in northern Afghan city
The number of war-displaced civilians in Kunduz has more than doubled to 24,000, the UN said yesterday, as street battles persisted a week after the Taleban stormed into the northern Afghan city.
Terrified residents facing a growing humanitarian crisis have been fleeing explosions and gunfights to neighbouring provinces of Balkh, Takhar, Baghlan and the capital Kabul. “Initial reports indicate that around 24,000 internally displaced persons” have fled Kunduz, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement. “As assessments are ongoing and families are still on the move, this figure will almost certainly change.” The UN had earlier said up to 10,000 people had fled the city, which briefly fell last year to the Taleban in a similar assault. Kunduz residents have faced crippling shortages of food and medicine after the Taleban launched an all-out assault last Monday, capturing parts of the city.
Afghan forces have struggled to flush them out of residential neighborhoods, with the government saying the clearance operation was being carefully conducted to prevent civilian casualties. At least three civilians have been killed and more than 290 wounded, according to the Kunduz general hospital, but local residents say the actual toll is much higher. “Key parts of the city have been cleared, with 52 insurgents killed in the last 24 hours,” the interior ministry said on Sunday.
The Taleban attack on Afghanistan’s fifth largest city a year after it was overrun by insurgents has raised serious concerns about the capacity of NATO-trained government forces to protect large urban centres. “Kunduz is a tragedy caused by the government’s failure to stop the Taleban from entering the city,” Kunduz MP Fatima Aziz told local TOLO TV. “If the senior officials of Kunduz had been held accountable last time we wouldn’t be facing this renewed crisis.”
KUNDUZ, AFGHANISTAN: Residents leaving the city on October 5, 2016 amid ongoing fighting between Taleban militants and Afghan security forces. —AFP