Afghanistan says troops hold main square in Kunduz
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.