Scores flee pitched bat­tles in north­ern Afghan city

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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