21 August, 2016
A large number of Afghan forces on Saturday retreated to the capital city of Kunduz province as Taliban fighters captured key strategic district in the northern province of Afghanistan.
Khanabad district links Kunduz to Takhar and other northen provinces, which are now being infiltrated by the Taliban and seeing more fighting after being relatively peaceful for years.
"The reports that I have by talking to people in Kunduz is that the district fell into the hands of the Taliban without any combat or conflict", Habib Wardak, a political activist, told Al Jazeera from Kabul.
The move against Khan Abad comes as the militant group continues to wage an increasingly violent insurgency in a bid to topple the government.
Taliban militants also attempted for several times to take control of the strategic Kunduz city which was briefly captured by the group a year ago. The main route to Tajikistan also runs through Kunduz province. Gen. Qasim Jangalbagh, in a statement said some parts of the district have already fallen to Taliban, "but I have no information about the entire town's capture".
"After several hours of fighting the militants overran the district", the district's governor Hayatullah Amiri said, adding that the provincial governor ignored their calls for reinforcements.More news: Rio 2016: YouTuber completes Rubix Cube faster than Bolt ran the 100m
The provincial capital, Kunduz, was briefly overrun by the Taliban in 2015, and held for almost two weeks before being forced out by government forces, backed up by U.S. air power and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops.
Afghan troops deploy near Chardarah District in Kunduz Province on Sunday as they prepare for battle.
"Government forces, after killing 30 Taliban rebels and losing four security personnel, have recaptured Shahr-e-Kohna locality", Baghlan provincial governor Abdul Sattar Bariz told reporters on Friday. In Kunduz the insurgents are threatening areas near the provincial capital of the same name.
In the capital, meanwhile, a soldier was killed early Saturday by a sticky bomb placed on his vehicle, Kabul police said.
Between January and June this year, 1,601 civilians have been killed and 3,565 wounded - an increase on the same period last year.