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Tens Of Thousands Flee Northern Afghan City, Violence Rages In South

Residents of Kunduz leave the city amid ongoing fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz on October 5.
Residents of Kunduz leave the city amid ongoing fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Kunduz on October 5.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled the northern city of Kunduz as clashes continue between government forces and the Taliban, while militants have launched a large-scale attack in the south.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said more than 33,000 residents had been forced to leave Kunduz since the Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on October 3.

The fighting has left residents in the strategic regional capital in northern Afghanistan facing a looming humanitarian crisis as water, food, medicine, and electricity supplies run short.

Danielle Moylan, information officer at OCHA in Kabul, told RFE/RL by telephone on October 10 that the UN was "deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Kunduz city."

"People really are now in their eighth day of having very limited access to electricity and water," she said. "We are receiving continuous reports that there is little food in the city, and when people go out to find food, they do risk being caught in crossfire or fighting."

According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees, the number of those forced to flee could reach as high as 100,000.

Government troops, backed by Afghan special forces and U.S. air strikes, are struggling to clear the city of hundreds of Taliban fighters who have taken positions in residential areas and have entrenched themselves on the outskirts of the city.

On October 10, Afghan forces were still conducting "clearing operations" throughout Kunduz, which briefly fell to the Taliban last year.

Fighting In South

Meanwhile, at least 10 police officers have been killed in an apparent suicide car bombing in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand Province.

Haji Marjan, the police chief of Nad Ali district, said that four civilians were also killed and the death toll from the October 10 attack was likely to rise.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the Taliban also launched a large-scale attack on the security checkpoints in Lashkar Gah.

Sediqqi added that the Afghan security forces "will soon push them back."

The Taliban has been on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah for months as part of their march across Helmand, where much of the world's opium is produced.

Provincial officials have said the Taliban now controls 85 percent of the province, while only a year ago the government controlled 80 percent.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mustafa Sarwar in Prague, AFP, and dpa
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