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The Taliban Close In On Two Afghan Provincial Capitals


Afghan policeman stand alert during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city on October 3.

Afghan officials say Taliban fighters have launched a coordinated attack on the northern city of Kunduz, capturing a district in the south of the country.

The militants attacked Kunduz from four sides just after midnight on October 3, triggering heavy fighting with government forces.

At least one policemen was killed and four others were wounded in the fighting, according to the Interior Ministry.

The head of the police coordination office in Kunduz, Mohammadullah Bahej, said the militants had been pushed back but that fighting continued on the outskirts of the city.

Kunduz provincial council member Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani warned that the province was on the verge of collapse. He said civilians in Kunduz are panicked and trying to flee but they are caught in the midst of fighting.

"Please help us to get rid of this chaos and crisis, or our people will be killed," he said.

A reporter for Radio Free Afghanistan in Kunduz reported that some fighting was taking place in the city.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attackers had captured several checkpoints in the city.

Reports said residents had piled into cars to escape the city center and shops were shuttered.

Amnesty International called on all parties in the conflict to take precautions to protect civilians in the city.

“It is extremely worrying that Taliban fighters are exposing residents to attacks and sweeping them into a raging war, which has already cost them so much,” said Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Champa Patel.

“Needlessly endangering civilians by launching attacks from their midst is prohibited under international law, and demonstrates the Taliban’s utter disregard for civilian safety and right to life,” Patel added.

Kunduz fell for a few days to the Taliban one year ago in a battle that the UN said left 289 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

Meanwhile, in the southern province of Helmand, officials said militants seized a district to the south of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, killing the local police chief.

A police official said the fighting in Nawa district between security forces and Taliban militants was ongoing.

Helmand’s provincial spokesman, Omar Zhwak, said government reinforcements have pushed the Taliban outside Nawa’s district center.

The district is adjacent to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, which has been under a virtual Taliban siege for months.

The Taliban also posted videos on their Voice of Jihad website, which claimed to show Taliban fighters in Helmand’s Nawa and Nad-e Ali districts. Nun Asia, a website affiliated with the insurgents, carried videos showing insurgent fighters roaming the center of Kunduz city.

The attacks come ahead of an international donor conference starting in Brussels on October 4, where Afghanistan's international partners will discuss aid to the country.

Based on reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan, Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and the BBC

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