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Afghan Troops Fight Taliban Advance Within City Of Kunduz

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Afghan security forces battled Taliban militants on the outskirts of Kunduz city on April 28 as the Taliban continued their push for territory in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province.

Afghan officials said reinforcements sent to the city managed, on April 28, to push Taliban fighters back from positions they had seized during the previous four days on the southern outskirts of the city where Kunduz Airport is located.

RFE/RL’s correspondent in Kunduz reports the airport remained under government control after sundown on April 28.

But Taliban fighters hold strategic hilltop positions to the northwest, within Kunduz’s city limits, in the Gul Tepa district.

Government forces have abandoned positions in four parts of Kunduz Province attacked since the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive on April 24.

Kunduz Provincial police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini confirmed on April 28 that the Taliban had made territorial gains in the district of Imam Sahib to the north of the provincial capital.

He said that was because government forces had relatively few military positions in that area in recent days.

But he said government reinforcements that arrived from Kabul on April 27 managed to set up defensive positions in the Imam Sahib district, about 50 kilometers north of the provincial capital, on April 28.

He said nine Afghan troops were killed in fighting there.

Hussaini also said a Taliban commander known as Mullah Mustafa has been killed in the Imam Saheb district along with 50 Taliban fighters in recent days.

That claim could not be independently confirmed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the Taliban casualty toll announced by Hussaini, saying only two Taliban have been killed in the Kunduz fighting.

An Afghan Interior Ministry report on April 28 confirmed that Taliban fighters have seized government vehicles, weapons, and a radio in the Imam Sahib district to the north of the provincial capital.

It also said five police officers have been captured in Kunduz Province by the Taliban since April 24, and that 28 others, including a police commander, were missing.

Kunduz Governor Omer Safi told RFE/RL on April 27 that Taliban fighters have seized about 40 percent of the territory in Kunduz Province since April 24.

Safi said "around 3,000 militants are fighting in five major districts" of the province and that the Taliban appeared to have shifted its focus to northern Afghanistan instead of the south.

Safi also told RFE/RL that Afghan security forces “have found some Chechens and some Tajiks" among the slain militants.

He said many of the militants had traveled "with their families" from tribal regions in Pakistan across Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province and into Kunduz Province.

The Taliban offensive in the north is a major test of the NATO-trained Afghan army and police, who are fighting in northern Afghanistan with almost no air support or help from the few thousand remaining U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

With additional reporting by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Reuters, AP, and AFP