Afghan government officials say security forces have retaken control of a key district that fell to the Taliban in the northern province of Kunduz.
Soldiers were able to retake control of the heart of Khanabad from Taliban fighters, who had hoisted their flag in the centre of the district, Mawlawi Abdullah, a provincial council member from Kunduz, said on Sunday.
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The fighters seized the district, which connects Kunduz to Takhar and other northern provinces, on Saturday morning, with heavy clashes reported in several other districts.
“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 district chief.
The Taliban has intensified its attacks in Kunduz and also carried out raids in other key districts in the province in the past weeks.
The fall of Khanabad came just five days after the Taliban captured a district in neighbouring Baghlan province, seizing a number of government forces’ vehicles and ammunition.
The fighters launched a coordinated attack on Dahana-e-Ghori on August 12, leading to heavy clashes in the area until the fighters took control of the district on August 15.
Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan as the Taliban campaign spreads from its traditional strongholds in the south and east of the country to once peaceful regions in the north.
The provincial capital, Kunduz city, fell to the Taliban for the first time in September last year, in one of the biggest victories for the fighters since they were toppled from power by US and coalition forces in late 2001.
Fighting has also escalated in other Afghanistan provinces.
Fierce Taliban assaults have targeted Baghlan and Helmand, where the Taliban has encircled the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
The Taliban government collapsed after the US invasion of 2001; since then, the group’s control over parts of Afghanistan has fluctuated wildly.
NATO officially ended its combat mission in December 2014, but US forces were granted greater powers in June this year to strike at the Taliban as President Barack Obama pledged a more aggressive campaign.