Hundreds of Taliban terrorists have captured half of the strategic capital of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan and freed 500 inmates from a local prison including fellow militants, according to news reports.
BBC reports that the Taliban “militants have occupied some government buildings, including a prison, and heavy fighting is continuing” in Kunduz city, the capital of an Afghan province of the same name.
Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Husaini told BBC that the Taliban “had captured the jail in Kunduz and freed about 500 prisoners, including members of the Taliban.”
Two unnamed Afghan security officials told Reuters that Taliban terrorists, some armed with rocket-propelled grenades, defeated security guards and broke into the prison.
Reuters, citing witnesses and Afghan officials, reports that the attack “one of the most serious security breaches in 14 years of war.”
“It is certainly the first major breach of a provincial capital since 2001,” Graeme Smith, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told Reuters, adding, “They are choking the Afghan forces from all sides. It looks pretty grim.”
Monday’s attack marked the second time this year that Taliban jihadists had besieged the city.
Kunduz city has been defended by Afghan security forces who have been left largely on their own after U.S. and NATO forces ended their combat mission at the end of last year, withdrawing most of their troops.
Reuters learned from a witness that the “the insurgents launched a three-sided surprise offensive at around dawn, and by mid-afternoon they had hoisted their white flag over Kunduz’s main square, about 200 meters from the governor’s compound.”
BBC, quoting the local Kunduz government, reports that at least 25 Taliban members and two Afghan policemen had been killed in the attack, adding that the Afghan security forces had sent reinforcements to the city.
“There is fierce fighting ongoing at Spin Ghar park, which is some half a kilometer (550 yards) away from the governor’s compound,” Abdullah Danishy, deputy governor of Kunduz, told Reuters by telephone from the city’s airport after fleeing his office, confirming that the Taliban was closing in.
Nevertheless, the deputy governor insisted that Kunduz provincial center would not fall to the Taliban, saying, ”We have reinforcements coming from other areas and will beat back the Taliban.”
The Taliban has linked up with other insurgent groups and has launched a number of attacks in Kunduz province since April, notes BBC.
“The Taliban have taken over our neighborhood… I can see their fighters all around,” a reporter from Agence-France Presse (AFP) said.
Kunduz city was the Taliban’s former northern stronghold before their government was overthrown by the U.S.-led coalition in 2001, making the city symbolically significant to the insurgent group.
The province of Kunduz “contains major roads that connect central and northern Afghanistan,” notes BBC.
“The Kunduz assault marks a troubling development in the insurgency, although Afghan forces have managed to drive the Taliban back from most of the territory they have gained this year during an escalation in violence,” reports Reuters.