The Afghan Taliban have claimed withdrawal from the centre of the northern city of Kunduz after weeks of intense fighting against the Afghan troops back by US airstrikes in the city.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that they have withdrawn from the city to protect civilians.
“We left Kunduz so the fight can stop and the civilians can get back to their normal life,” Mujahid said.
“Our enemies (foreign forces) have destroyed markets, commercial buildings and hospitals in the fight and we saw people dying and suffering due to those attacks.”
However, the Taliban assure that they are able to seize the city again if they want.
“We are leaving for the sake of those civilians. However, we can come back and seize the city whenever we want,” Mujahid told Al Jazeera.
According to Kunduz police spokesperson, Sayed Sarwar Hussain, all fighters had been cleared from the city and life was returning back to normal.
“Last night electricity and water supply has been restored in the city and most of the markets in the city have reopened,” Hussain told Al Jazeera.
“Civilians who’ve fled the city are heading back to Kunduz now.”
Kunduz residents are however still mourning over the loss of their loved ones and the destruction of their homes due to the conflict.
“We are still worried. We don’t know when will it all start again!” said Hekmat dad, a 34-year-old Kunduz resident.
“The conflict is still not over yet.”
Meanwhile, Taliban have attempted to storm the outskirts of the southeastern city Ghazni on Tuesday after they were repelled by Afghan forces on Monday.
The fighting left the streets of Ghazni largely empty for a second day as many residents fled to the capital city, Kabul.
The fall of Kunduz has dealt a major blow to the country’s NATO-trained security forces and highlighted the insurgency’s potential to expand beyond its rural strongholds.
As fighting spreads in the neighbouring provinces such as Badakhshan and Takhar, concerns are mounting that the seizure of Kunduz was merely the opening gambit to tighten the insurgency’s grip across northern Afghanistan.
The Taliban have claimed that they have taken over 35 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts (in 34 provinces so far).