Afghan Taliban insurgency
Afghan local police (ALP) sit at the back of a truck near a frontline during a battle with the Taliban at Qalay- i-zal district, in Kunduz province, AfghanistanReuters file photo

The Afghan Taliban has claimed seizing key parts of Yangi Qala district in the northern Takhar province shortly after a major offensive in which Kunduz province was captured. The insurgents continued their surprise expansion even as Afghan forces prepared to retake the fallen province.

Taliban, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, said its "mujahideen" (fighters) overran the Afghan forces during an armed assault in Yangi Qala district centre in the early hours of Tuesday, 29 September. Key state-run buildings including the police headquarters and the district admin building were claimed to be under the control of the Taliban forces, though it was yet to be independently confirmed.

A Taliban statement read: "Officials say that the cowardly enemy fled their positions after brief resistance, leaving behind a truck full of arms and ammunition as well as other equipment."

Meanwhile, Afghan security forces are reported to have landed at Kunduz airport gearing up for a counter-attack against the Taliban militants. Most of the government security forces that were in Kunduz at the time of the Taliban assault had taken shelter at the airport.

The Kunduz offensive is one of the most significant armed assaults staged by the Taliban extremists in recent years which is likely to put more pressure on the Kabul administration. The acting provincial governor of Balkh province, Ata Mohammad Noor, said the counter-offensive would begin later in the day.

The newly-appointed Taliban leader, Mullah Mansoor, has warned the security forces against retaliating or attempting to recapture Kunduz. In a statement, Mansoor said: "Mujahideen are not thinking about retribution but have come with a message of peace. Mujahideen were against such people due to them standing and carrying out duties in the ranks of the invaders and its stooge regime. If they regret their former actions and renounce links with the opposition then the gates of forgiveness of the Islamic Emirate are open upon them."