Afghanistan says troops hold main Kunduz square, calm returning to northern city

Afghan troops have regained control of the main square in Kunduz, a strategic northern city briefly seized by the Taliban last week, following intense fighting over the site, Kabul officials said Wednesday.

KABUL — Afghan troops have regained control of the main square in Kunduz, a strategic northern city briefly seized by the Taliban last week, following intense fighting over the site, Kabul officials said Wednesday.

The Afghan campaign to retake Kunduz was marred by a tragic U.S. airstrike that destroyed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders on Saturday, killing at least 22 people. The international charity on Wednesday called for a fact-finding mission to determine whether the strike violated the Geneva Conventions.

Taliban fighters seized control of Kunduz, the capital of the province of the same name, for three days last week. The government launched its counter-offensive on Thursday, and troops have since fought intermittent running battles with the insurgents, who have launched attacks on security forces from the rural outskirts of the city.

Sarwar Hussaini, the spokesman for the Kunduz provincial police chief, said Wednesday that the government had regained control of the main square, which had traded hands several times, with each side tearing down the other’s flag and hoisting its own.

“The national flag is flying over the main square, shops have re-opened and life is returning to normal,” Hussaini said, adding that main roads running east and south have opened and traffic is starting to flow.

Qamirudin Sediqi, an adviser at the Public Health Ministry, said medical supplies were being delivered to Kunduz airport aboard military flights, lauding what he described as “great co-ordination between the public health and defence ministries” in sending medical aid.

However, some Taliban fighters remain in hiding in residential areas of Kunduz as operations continue to clear them from the city, according to a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.

“Afghan forces have control of Kunduz city, however, some scattered elements of the enemy are still hiding in the residential areas inside people’s houses,” deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said. “This could at times slow down the speed of our military operations as we put the utmost effort into not harming civilians.”

Emergency relief supplies of food and medicines had not been able to reach Kunduz earlier, leading to dire shortages, residents and medical officials said.

Authorities still had no precise casualty figures for the past days since the Taliban blitz on Kunduz, though the number of dead and wounded is believed to be in the hundreds. Sediqi said local hospitals had received around 60 bodies so far, with about 800 wounded since the fighting began with the Taliban assault of Sept. 28.

Residents said militants have regrouped in the Chahar Dara district to the west, where they have been present for months. Bilal Ahmad, a grocer, said he hesitated to open his shop because of the tenuous situation. He said tanks have moved into the main square.

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, meanwhile called for the first-ever fact-finding mission to be launched under the Geneva Conventions.

MSF’s international president, Joanne Liu, told reporters in Geneva that the strike “was not just an attack on our hospital, it was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated.”

Liu said MSF is “working on the assumption of a possible war crime,” but said the group’s real goal is to establish facts about the incident and the chain of command, and clear up the rules of operation for all humanitarian organizations that work in conflict zones.

Ghani’s office, reacting to MSF’s call for the fact-finding mission, said that “the Afghan government is fully committed to a full and transparent investigation of the hospital incident.”

Afghan authorities “will fully co-operate with the investigation through appropriate channels agreed upon by our partners” in the NATO Resolute Support mission, said Hashemi, the spokesman.

“The tragedy has shocked and extremely saddened the president, who feels the burden of loss of lives of his fellow citizens on daily basis,” he added.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said Tuesday that the strike was a mistake, and investigations are underway. Preliminary results are not expected for some days.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: Songwriters discuss what makes a great country tune, creative process

Alberta Country Music Awards Songwriters Showcase was held in Red Deer Saturday

RCMP investigating fatal fire in Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin RCMP and the Major Crimes unit are investigating after human remains… Continue reading

The Mustard Seed to launch new wellness centre in Red Deer

A new service is coming to Red Deer to help the city’s… Continue reading

Penhold firefighters handle ‘difficult’ blaze

Penhold firefighters battled a “difficult” blaze Friday afternoon. Fire crews were called… Continue reading

Clearwater County firefighter recruitment campaign deemed a success

A firefighter recruitment campaign is being considered a success by Clearwater County.… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

Weersink and Kings shutout top-ranked NAIT Ooks

Queens hockey also knock off Olds College Broncos

Calgary Hitmen roll over Rebels 5-2

Hitmen 5 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels looked like a team… Continue reading

RDC Queens sweep weekend series with Lethbridge

The RDC Queens picked up a pair of crucial wins on the… Continue reading

Photos: Strong turnout for 38th annual Oilmen’s Bonspiel

The 38th annual Red Deer Oilmen’s Bonspiel is well underway at the… Continue reading

St. John’s, N.L., lifts state of emergency eight days after massive storm

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The City of St. John’s has lifted a… Continue reading

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay announces Tory leadership bid

STELLARTON, N.S. — Former federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he will… Continue reading

Most Read