Afghan government forces have recaptured parts of central Kunduz, the northern city but fighting endures in and around the city.
Special forces launched an operation at about 9pm on Wednesday alongside soldiers and police. They were backed by international special forces, believed to be acting mainly in an advisory role.
“By 3.30am, our special forces were able to retake the city and clear the city from terrorists,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry. He said: “There are lots of dead bodies of in the city right now. Hundreds of them.”
However, residents said fighting was continuing in several central areas, including around the police headquarters. Some militants were thought to have scattered to the districts, or to be hiding in civilian houses, which the army were searching door-to-door.
The defence ministry said about 150 insurgents were killed. According to a security official close to the Afghan government, approximately 200 Afghan special forces participated in the operation.
Photos on social media showed soldiers removing a Taliban flag from the city’s main square. A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It was a terrible night. They were bombing the city and there were helicopters and airstrikes.”
It was unclear how many airstrikes Afghan troops conducted, but the US military said they had launched six airstrikes since Kunduz fell on Monday, including three on Wednesday, of which none had occurred after the operation began.
It was also unclear where the Taliban had gone. Some militants appeared to have fled before the government counter-offensive, taking vast quantities of seized weapons and vehicles with them to Chardara district, according to one resident. “For the moment, [the Taliban] are out of the city but I think they are more powerful now,” the resident said.
“The job is not done yet,” Sediqqi said. “We are still looking for explosives, terrorists and suicide bombers.”
The recapture of parts of Kunduz follows three days of heavy fighting after the Taliban seized the city in a surprise assault. It was the first time since 2001 the insurgents managed to breach a large city. They did so despite being vastly outnumbered. Thousands of security forces simply fled when the militants advanced.
Ruhollah, a 30-year-old resident of Imam Saheb district, said while the Taliban were in control there, there were only about 50 insurgents in stolen police vehicles and on motorbikes in and around the district centre. Though the fighting continued elsewhere in Imam Sahib, security forces had easily taken the centre.
Ruhollah said: “When there was rumour that the government forces were coming, the Taliban ran away.”