Days into their annual offensives, the Taliban militants in Afghanistan claimed Saturday to have overrun a district in the northern Kunduz province bordering Tajikistan.
In a statement posted on their website, the Taliban said its militants had killed a number of soldiers, policemen and pro-government militia members and had confiscated a huge cache of arms and ammunition.
A member of the provincial assembly, Assadullah Saadat confirmed all government buildings in the Qala Zaal district had fallen to the Taliban. The district has twice before briefly fallen to the militants.
The security officials, however, said government forces had strategically retreated from the district center.
Mahboobullah Sayedi, the district governor, told Anadolu Agency that the fighting was still underway. "More than 20 attacking insurgents have been killed, and a number of others wounded," he said.
Kunduz lies on the main route linking the capital with a number of provinces. Since Thursday, the highway linking the neighboring Takhar province with the rest of the country has been blocked due to clashes between government forces and the Taliban, who launched their annual spring offensive on April 28.
As per the U.S Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)’s estimates, the insurgents control nine districts and have influence in 32 while 133 districts are "contested" out of a total of 398.
As for the government of Afghanistan, SIGAR estimates that it controls only 83 districts and has influences over 150 others.
By Shadi Khan Saif in Kabul