Kabul, Aug 8 (EFE).- Taliban fighters Sunday captured the strategically crucial capitals of northern Kunduz and Sar-e-Pol provinces after days of fierce fighting with government forces.
The fall of Kunduz and Sar-e-Pol cities is the most significant territorial gain by the insurgents since they launched an offensive after foreign troops began withdrawing from the country in May.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement, confirmed the capture, saying militants seized thousands of weapons from the security forces in the two provinces.
Federal lawmaker Nelofar Koofi from the Kunduz province told EFE that the Kunduz city fell to the Taliban and “only the airport is in control of the security forces.”
She said security forces have retreated from the city and have gathered around the airport.
The lawmaker said the Taliban blew up a wall of the Kunduz prison and released all prisoners, including jailed insurgents.
The militants took over the Governor House, police headquarters, and other government buildings.
The Taliban capture triggered the exodus of residents from the city. But some were stuck inside their houses, Koofi said.
The Afghan Army, however, said elite commando forces had begun an anti-Taliban operation in the city.
The forces recaptured the building housing the national radio and TV of Afghanistan, an army statement said.
Taj Muhammad, the army commander in Kunduz in a video message, claimed that the Taliban suffered heavy losses in the fighting.
“Their dead bodies are on the streets. They were trying to capture the key areas, but their plan got defeated.”
Malik, a Kunduz resident, told EFE that the city was in a complete mess and heavy fighting was underway.
“A market of clothes and blankets caught fire,” he said.
Kunduz city holds strategic importance as it connects several northern provinces with the rest of the country.
The province also houses a trade port with neighboring Tajikistan.
Taliban briefly captured Kunduz in September 2015. Since then, the insurgents have made several failed attempts to gain control of the city.
The Taliban also captured the Sar-e-Pol provincial prison, the latest in their military advances across Afghanistan.
Aziza Jalis, a lawmaker from Sar-e-Pol, told EFE that security forces in her province gathered at an army base “in a corner of the city.”
She said the Taliban entered the city in the morning after nightlong clashes with security forces.