Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan city of Kunduz from multiple directions early Saturday morning, a Defense Ministry spokesman said – the first major Taliban assault on the provincial capital since 2016.
Armed clashes between the militants and Afghan forces have left dozens of Taliban dead, said Fawad Aman, a deputy spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
The Afghan Air Force responded with air strikes, Aman added. Afghan forces had cleared Kunduz of Taliban fighters by Saturday evening, he said, though fighting continued around the outskirts of the city.
Amad said 36 Taliban fighters were killed, 10 were injured, and 32 surrendered. He said he did not have details about civilian casualties.
The attack comes as the United States and Taliban representatives try to hammer out an agreement for American forces to leave Afghanistan. The Afghan government is not involved in those talks, which are taking place in Doha, Qatar.
Fatima Aziz, an Afghan lawmaker from Kunduz province, said heavy fighting has been going on in different parts of the city since 1:30 a.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). She said electricity, water and telecommunication systems were down in the city and a lot of people were trapped. However, she said, a small number of civilians have managed to escape the city to the nearby districts. She said that there were reports of civilian casualties, but she didn’t know how many.
She also added that the Taliban fighters had entered the main hospital and sheltered in civilian houses.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed their armed attack on Kunduz city on his Twitter page, and another Taliban-linked Twitter page posted a video that it said showed Afghan armed forces surrendering their weapons to the Taliban. The page also posted video claiming to show Taliban fighters in the city.
Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a tweet: “Security forces are repelling the Taliban attack on some parts of Kunduz city; their top priority is to protect the civilians. As always the Taliban have taken positions in civilian areas.”