Afghanistan says troops hold main square in Kun­duz

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY LYNNE O’DON­NELL

Afghan troops have re­gained con­trol of the main square in Kun­duz, a strate­gic north­ern city briefly seized by Tal­iban in­sur­gents last week that has been the scene of in­tense fight­ing, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

Dur­ing the fight to re­take the city, a U.S. airstrike de­stroyed a hos­pi­tal run by Doc­tors With­out Borders on Satur­day, killing at least 22 peo­ple. The in­ter­na­tional char­ity on Wed­nes­day called for a fact-find­ing mis­sion to de­ter­mine whether the strike vi­o­lated the Geneva Con­ven­tions.

A spokesman for Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani said some “scat­tered el­e­ments of the en­emy” re­main in residential ar­eas of Kun­duz as oper­a­tions con­tinue to clear the Tal­iban from the city.

Tal­iban fight­ers seized con­trol of Kun­duz city, cap­i­tal of the province of the same name, for three days last week. Af­ter seal­ing the city and min­ing roads, they looted and burned gov­ern­ment build­ings and busi­nesses, and ha­rassed jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights work­ers.

The gov­ern­ment launched its counter- of­fen­sive on Thurs­day, and troops have since fought in­ter­mit­tent run­ning bat­tles with in­sur­gents, who have launched at­tacks on se­cu­rity forces from the ru­ral out­skirts of the city, of­fi­cials and res­i­dents have said.

Sar­war Hus­saini, the spokesman for the Kun­duz pro­vin­cial po­lice chief, said Wed­nes­day the gov­ern­ment had re­gained con­trol of the main square, which had traded hands sev­eral times, with each side tear­ing down the other’s flag and hoist­ing its own.

“The na­tional flag is fly­ing over the main square, shops have re­opened and life is re­turn­ing to nor­mal,” he said, adding that main roads run­ning east and south have opened and traf­fic is start­ing to flow.

Qamirudin Sediqi, an ad­viser to the Public Health Min­is­ter, said medicines were be­ing shipped into the air­port aboard mil­i­tary flights. “There is great co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the public health and de­fense min­istries in send­ing med­i­cal equip­ment, doc­tors and medicine to Kun­duz,” he said.

Emer­gency re­lief sup­plies of food and medicines had not been able to reach the city un­til Wed­nes­day, lead­ing to dire short-

of- ages, res­i­dents and med­i­cal fi­cials said.

Author­i­ties Wed­nes­day had no pre­cise ca­su­alty fig­ures, though the num­ber of dead and wounded is be­lieved to be in the hun­dreds. Sediqi said lo­cal hos­pi­tals had re­ceived around 60 bod­ies so far, with about 800 wounded since the fight­ing be­gan with the Tal­iban as­sault of Sept. 28.

The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion re­mains fluid, with fight­ing on the out­skirts of the city in re­cent days. Res­i­dents said mil­i­tants have re­grouped in the Cha­har Dara dis­trict to the west, where they have been present for months.

Bi­lal Ah­mad, a gro­cer, said he hes­i­tated to open his shop be­cause of the ten­u­ous sit­u­a­tion. He said tanks have moved into the main square.

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