RVISION April 18, 2016

Both the Taliban and the Afghan government have claimed major advances as intense fighting continues for the strategic city of Kunduz.

Battles erupted earlier this week in six districts in Kunduz province, a key northern stronghold close to the Tajikistan border, as well as around the provincial capital, which the Taliban captured and held for several days last year.

The Taliban said on Sunday fighters were besieging Kunduz from three directions – east, north and west – and had made significant gains in their efforts to recapture it.

“We have advanced in Khanabad and Imam-Saheb districts and have captured 55 government security forces,” Mullah Hamidi, a Taliban member, told Al Jazeera.

His claims could not independently be verified.

Conversely, Afghan authorities said security forces had pushed back a recent Taliban attack and were advancing as heavy fighting continued around the province.

‘Heavy casualties’

In a press release, the interior ministry said 54 Taliban fighters, including local commander Qhari Habib, had been killed in the battles.

“The enemy has sustained heavy casualties, our forces are advancing in the direction of Dashti-Archi, Imam-Saheb and Khan Abad district,” General Dawlat Waziri, the spokesperson for the Afghan defence ministry, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“Today, 38 Taliban have been killed and 13 injured – among the dead is Mullah Mubashr, a field commander of the Taliban.

Photos of dozens of bodies riddled with bullets or shrapnel were posted on Afghan social media on Sunday, with captions saying they were Taliban fighters, but those claims could not be independently verified.

Kunduz city fell to the Taliban in September 2015 but was retaken by the government forces shortly after.

Fighting has broken out in Qushtifa district of Jowzhan province, where the Taliban is also claiming gains which cannot be independently verified.

Source: Al Jazeera