KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters took control of a key district in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province Monday and encircled the provincial capital, police said, as the insurgent group added to its string of recent victories on the battlefield.
Fighting around Imam Sahib district began late Sunday and by mid-day Monday the Taliban had overrun the district headquarters and were in control of police headquarters, said Inamuddin Rahmani, provincial police spokesman said.
Taliban militants were within a mile of Kunduz, the provincial capital but had not entered into the city, he said, although there were reports of small bands of Taliban near the outskirts and residents trying to leave for Kabul.
Dozens of districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, when US and NATO troops began their final departure from Afghanistan. Like Imam Sahib district in northern Kunduz, their significance often lies in their proximity to roads and major cities.
Imam Sahib is strategically located near Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan, a key supply route from Central Asia.
Rahmani said police and Afghan National Army soldiers had jointly tried to defend the district. He said it still wasn’t clear how many casualties the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces suffered in the protracted battle or how many Taliban were killed or wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed confirmed Imam Sahib district was in Taliban hands.
Several other districts in Kunduz have also fallen to the insurgent group in the latest round of fighting, including Dasht-e-Archi, which neighbors Imam Sahib, said Rahmani, further consolidating local transportation links in the area.
Syed Mohammad Mousavi drove with his family to the relative safety of Kabul from northern Mazar-e-Sharif, about 75 miles west of Kunduz on Sunday.