Fighting Rages In Kunduz; Taliban Gains Ground
NEW DELHI: The battered city of Kunduz is back in the news as the Taliban have reportedly overrun the strategic Afghan district bordering Tajikistan following heavy fighting on Thursday night.
Government forces have been locked in a pitched battle with the militant group, with official accounts denying reports that the Taliban now fully control the Qala-e-Zal district in the Kunduz province -- where the group had been able to temporarily seize the provincial capital last year.
The Taliban issued a statement claiming that it had taken control of the district.
Nabi Ghichi, the local police commander, told Al Jazeera that the Taliban attack began in the early hours of Monday, warning that he had little logistical support to push the armed group's fighters back.
District governor Mahbubullah Saeedi told the DPA news agency that 15 Taliban fighters, one Afghan security force member and one civilian have thus far been killed in the fighting. Saeedi added that another 23 Taliban fighters and seven security force members have been wounded.
"Parts of the district have fallen into the hands of the Taliban, but our security forces are fighting them back," Mahmoud Danish, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told Al Jazeera.
Since then, however, security officials have said that government forces are now in control following a “tactical retreat.” Anadolu news agency quotes Shiraziz Kamawal, commander of Afghan Police 's 808-Spinghar Corps, saying that fighting was ongoing and that an unspecified number of militants had been killed in the clean-up operation.
As fighting rages in Afghanistan, civilian casualties have reached a record high yet. At least 3,545 non-combatants died and another 7,457 were injured by fighting last year in a 4-percent increase over 2014 -- making 2015 the worst year yet in terms of civilian casualties caused by the violence.
A UN report stated that Afghan hostilities in 2015 left more than 3,500 civilians dead, including an unprecedented number of children – one in four casualties over the past year was a child – and nearly 7,500 others wounded, making this the highest number of civilian casualties recorded.
The annual report, produced by the UNAMA in coordination with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office (OHCHR), shows that increased ground fighting in and around populated areas, along with suicide and other attacks in major cities, were the main causes of conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries in 2015.
UNAMA documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and 7,457 injured) in 2015, exceeding the previous record levels of civilian casualties that occurred in 2014. The latest figures show an overall increase of four per cent during 2015 in total civilian casualties from the previous year. UNAMA began its systematic documentation of civilian casualties in 2009.
According the report, ground engagements between parties to the conflict caused the highest number of total civilian casualties (fatalities and injuries), followed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide and complex attacks. Ground engagements caused the most fatalities among civilians, followed by targeted and deliberate killings.
Further, in 2015, UNAMA documented a 37 per cent increase in women casualties and a 14 per cent increase in child casualties.