KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: Explosions echoed across Kunduz as Afghan commandos drove back a Taliban assault on Monday, forcing residents to shelter in their homes, a year after militants briefly seized the strategic provincial capital.
Kunduz police chief Kassim Jangal Bagh confirmed that Afghan forces were in control.
“The city center is now in our hands and not in their hands. We are launching an attack to clean up the area,” he told AFP.
Government helicopters were targeting gunmen from the air in a bid to repel the attack, which came a day before President Ashraf Ghani was due to meet world powers at a major donors’ conference in Brussels.
The militants were driven out of the city center by late Monday, NATO and local police said.
“Government controls Kunduz City and Afghan security forces are in control of the main square with additional troops coming,” the NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan said on Twitter.
“US forces have multiple assets and enablers in area to provide support.”
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the United States had conducted air strikes in support of Afghan troops, and special operations forces were also on hand.
“The situation there remains fluid, we are continuing to watch it closely and to work with our Afghan partners,” he said.
Afghan forces were conducting clearing operations in Kunduz early Tuesday, warning that Taliban militants were hiding in civilian homes after an hours-long assault on the city repelled with the help of NATO air support.
Earlier in the day the provincial governor’s office said Afghan commandos flown in from Kabul to boost local forces had begun pushing the insurgents back to the city’s outskirts.
Special forces could be seen in the streets and some shops and businesses briefly reopened even as the sounds of fighting continued, an AFP correspondent said.
“Their attack has been repelled and the security forces are retaking the areas they had lost,” governor Assadullah Omerkhil told reporters there, adding that “tens” of Taliban had been killed.
Dozens of civilians were reported wounded during the fighting, with at least one dead, according to the Kunduz hospital and Afghan interior ministry.
Doctor Naeem Mangal, head of the Kunduz central hospital, said 43 civilians wounded by bullets and shrapnel had been brought in, with one dead body.
The Afghan interior ministry said one policeman had been killed and four wounded. It was not clear if they were included in the hospital’s toll.