Government forces claim they are battling the militants on the city’s outskirts.
The Taliban on Monday seized partial control of a major Afghan city, an AFP journalist and two tribal elders said, the first time they have done so since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001.
The Islamist group was driven out of cities when it was ousted from power by a NATO coalition in 2001, but has maintained control over parts of the countryside. Kunduz, in the northeast, is the country’s fifth largest city, situated around 250 kilometers north of the capital Kabul.
“The Taliban have taken over our neighborhood, which is part of Kunduz city, I can see their fighters all around,” an AFP journalist in the city said.
A senior tribal elder said the militia had control of one of the city’s districts, while a second elder added his house was now around 100 meters from their forward line.
“The Taliban launched a major offensive from different sides on Kunduz city with the major push coming from the north, beginning at 3:00 a.m. last night,” the elder, who requested anonymity, said. “The Taliban are less than one kilometer from the city’s center,” he said, adding they had also seized a 200-bed hospital.
Government officials denied the reports and said they are battling the insurgents on the city’s outskirts.
“The Taliban in the early morning had managed to enter one neighborhood on the edge of the Kunduz city, but they have been pushed back with heavy casualties, our forces are pursuing them,” said the province’s police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Defense added: “Thirty-five of the enemy fighters have been killed. The Afghan security forces assure the people, that they have inflicted a heavy blow on the enemy and will provide security to all people of Kunduz province.”
Afghanistan’s NATO-trained police and army have been fighting the Islamist militants this year without the front-line help of foreign forces, which ended their combat mission in December 2014.