KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The latest developments as Afghan government troops push into the northern city of Kunduz, which was captured by the Taliban earlier this week, forcing the insurgents to retreat (all times local).
The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he has spoken via video teleconference with the military leadership on the ground in Kunduz to hear how the battle to retake the city from the Taliban is progressing.
The office’s Twitter account says they discussed “the security situation and latest developments” on Thursday afternoon.
It says that Ghani has ordered defense and security authorities to continue the operations in Kunduz and “prioritize safety of civilians.”
Aid workers are struggling to cope with the fighting underway in Kunduz as Afghan government troops battle street-to-street to push the Taliban out of this key northern city.
Doctors Without Borders, which runs a trauma center in Kunduz, says the group has so far treated 296 people wounded in the fighting since Monday, when the Taliban blitzed and captured Kunduz.
MSF says that they have had 40 dead but that the actual death toll is likely much higher since they are only able to help a fraction of the population of this city of 300,000 residents.
Kate Stegeman, MSF’s communications officer in Afghanistan, says 64 of the wounded the group is looking after are children.
1: 15 p.m.
The Taliban appear to be resisting the Afghan government troops’ push into Kunduz that has forced the insurgents to pull out of the city center into more far-flung neighborhoods.
Resident Munib Khan of the Bandr-i-Iman Sahib district in the west of the city, says Taliban fighters are armed with rocket-propelled grenades and that they are putting up a heavy fight.
Khan says the fighting on Thursday has taken front-stage to the “many problems inside the city,” which now has “no water, no electricity.”
As fighting is raging in the key northern Afghan city of Kunduz, hundreds of people gathered near the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul, to call for President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation, blaming him for the situation in Kunduz.
One of the protesters, Foruzan Haydari, a 23-year-old student, says the people of Afghanistan “are not happy with this government, every day there is fighting.”
Meanwhile, the presidential palace said Ghani had spoken with military leaders in Kunduz to get an update on the situation in the city.
Thursday’s statement says Ghani spoke by videophone with Army Gen. Murad Ali Murad, who led the operation.
It also said the president will send a team to Kunduz to investigate how the Taliban were able to infiltrate the city.
The fall of Kunduz to the Taliban on Monday marked a major setback for Afghan government forces, who have struggled to combat insurgents with limited aid from the U.S. and NATO, which shifted to a training and support role at the end of last year.
The police chief of Kunduz province is seeking to reassure residents that the Afghan forces are in full control of the provincial capital, Kunduz, after pushing into the city overnight to drive the Taliban out.
Police chief Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh told The Associated Press on Thursday that he is in “the center of the city now,” speaking from the main city square.
He is urging Kunduz inhabitants to “continue their normal life.”
But a Kunduz resident says heavy fighting is ongoing in the Khuja Mashhad area of the city, about 200 meters (218 yards) north of the city’s main square.
Hameedullah, who like many Afghan men uses only one name, says that “everyone is staying indoors.” He spoke over the phone to the AP.
He also says: “There are explosions, but I can’t tell if they are bombs being dropped from the planes I can hear overhead, or rockets.”