Afghan forces retake key district of Khanabad in Kunduz

Taliban fighters were pushed back by Afghan security forces late on Saturday evening from the Khanabad District of Kunduz province, after capturing the district early in the morning.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The Taliban on Saturday took control of a northeastern district of Kunduz Province.

Afghan forces have retaken the key northeastern district of Khanabad in Kunduz province from the Taliban several hours after it fell, Afghan officials claimed on Saturday.

The district was captured by the Afghan Taliban on Saturday morning and there were reports that the group was marching towards the provincial capital, Kunduz City. The city was captured by Taliban last year in what was considered the group's biggest victory in 14 years but was retaken shortly afterwards.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Omarkhil told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Pashto language channel, "The district [Khanabad] had been completely retaken by Afghan forces. The Afghan flag was now flying again over the main district building."

"There are both local Taliban fighters as well as foreign [fighters] such as Chechens and Uzbeks [fighting against Afghan forces]," Omarkhil said.

The district of Khanabad, which is around 30 kilometres east of Kunduz city, fell to the Taliban after they launched a pre-dawn attack on the district centre on Saturday, according to local officials.

The district is strategically important as it connects Kunduz with the other northern provinces.  

The Afghan Taliban has not yet commented the claims that Khanabad has been retaken.


"After several hours of fighting the militants overran the district," District Governor Hayatullah Amiri told Agence France Presse, adding that the provincial governor ignored their calls for reinforcements.

"The Taliban attacked the district from different positions and we resisted for hours but we received no support. The district fell to the Taliban," said Hayatullah Amiri, the Khanabad chief.

Afghan officials in Kabul say a lack of ammunition and few reinforcements are the main reasons for the district falling to the Taliban.

Mohammadullah Bahej, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the insurgents launched attacks from different directions on the district headquarters in Khan Abad.

Afghan troops deploy near Chardarah District in Kunduz Province on Sunday as they prepare for battle.

In a statement earlier today, Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, "Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate have managed to completely overrun Khandabad district center, police HQ, intelligence building, military bases and 6 check posts this [Saturday] morning."

He also claimed the group has taken control of the centre of the eastern district of Hisarak in Naghar Province, which had been under siege for the past couple of days, but this claim was not confirmed by official and independent sources.

 A resident of Khanabad, Abdul Satar, told AFP hundreds had fled their homes during the fighting.

"The residents of the city are worried about their lives and safety. People are fleeing their homes and they have left their shops," he said, adding that roads to neighboring provinces were closed.

Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of Kunduz provincial council, said hundreds of civilians have fled the fighting and warned that "if the central government does not pay attention to Kunduz, the Taliban will overrun Kunduz city as they did last year."

The militants have intensified attacks across the country to exert pressure on the Kabul Government. They have besieged the southern capital city of Helmand for the last several days.

Afghan security forces are currently battling the Taliban in at least 15 of the country's 34 provinces, according to the country's Defence Ministry. In Kunduz the insurgents are threatening areas near the provincial capital of the same name.

The Taliban seized a district in the northern Baghlan Province last week, and heavy fighting is underway in the southern Helmand and eastern Nangarhar provinces.

In the capital, meanwhile, a soldier was killed early on Saturday by a sticky bomb placed on his vehicle, Kabul police said.

An Afghan policeman walks next to a burning vehicle in the city of Kunduz. (File photo)

A roadside bomb also ripped through a civilian vehicle in neighbouring Takhar Province – killing four people and wounding two others – Sunatullah Temor, a government spokesman for the province, told AFP.

Civilians are bearing the brunt of conflict in Afghanistan, with casualties soaring to a record high in the first half of 2016, according to a recent UN report.

Between January and June, 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 were wounded – a 4 percent increase in casualties compared to the same period last year. Deaths from the conflict have reached their highest level since the UN began issuing its reports in 2009.

TRTWorld and agencies