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Heavy Fighting Reported Around Northern Afghan City Of Kunduz

  • RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

The fighting led President Ashraf Ghani to delay his departure on a state visit to India by several hours.

The fighting led President Ashraf Ghani to delay his departure on a state visit to India by several hours.

Afghan authorities say security forces and Taliban insurgents engaged in heavy fighting around the city of Kunduz on April 27 amid a major militant offensive in the northern province.

Officials said large numbers of militants had attacked police and army checkposts in Kunduz Province, whose governor said militants controlled up to 40 percent of the province.

Governor Omer Safi told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service on April 27 that "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.

A spokesman for Safi, Abdul Waseh Base, said the Taliban threatened to overrun parts of the provincial capital after fighting that killed eight Afghan security personnel and at least two dozen militants.

"The threat level is very high, but with new reinforcements, our security forces have gained morale," Basel said.

There have been large-scale attacks in Kunduz over the past three days, after the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring offensive on April 24.

The fighting led President Ashraf Ghani to delay his departure on a state visit to India by several hours on April 27 in order to meet the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Campbell.

Safi said reinforcements have arrived and that plans were being made for an operation in three different parts of Kunduz.

"There are casualties as a result of three days battles on both sides, but I can't provide precise figures as the fighting is still going on," Safi said.

Safi told RFE/RL that "we have found some Chechens and some Tajiks" among the casualties on the militant side.

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

"The intention of the enemy -- it looks like they have changed their fighting strategy, because before they were more centered in the south of Afghanistan, and now they are concentrated more in northern Afghanistan," Safi said in a telephone interview.

Fighting continued into the evening, but Afghan forces pushed the Taliban back with help from reinforcements from Kabul and other areas, said local army commander Qadam Shah Shaheen.

Militants this month launched major attacks in Badakhshan Province and on April 27 fired on a government delegation meeting soldiers there.

Their rockets and gunfire narrowly missed the group, led by Ahmad Zia Massoud, head of Ghani's governance commission, a close aide said. The delegation withdrew by helicopter.

The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces across the country and last week launched the start of its spring offensive.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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