Afghan officials report Taliban attacks in northern province

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) " Two districts in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz were coming under sustained attack by Taliban fighters on Thursday, Afghan officials said.

At least one policeman was killed and four were wounded in the fighting in the Qalay-i-Zal district, said Mahmood Danish, spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province.

Airstrikes were called in to help repel the insurgents, he said. Officials in the district reported earlier that the Taliban began attacking in waves earlier this week, and had taken much of the district, which is east of the provincial capital, also called Kunduz.

Kunduz is strategically important, bordering Tajikistan to the north. It is a bread-basket province, and sits on a major crossroads connecting the country north to south and east to west.

The provincial capital was overrun by Taliban in September, sending shockwaves through the country as it was the first time the insurgents had taken a major urban center since launching their insurgency 15 years ago. The city of Kunduz came under threat again in April, when Afghan forces aided by U.S. troops and air power pushed the insurgents back into the surrounding districts.

Also on Thursday, in the Dasht-i-Archi district northeast of the city of Kunduz, the head of the local community council, Abdul Nazar, said the Taliban had been attacking all day, and had taken most of the district. He said that no reinforcements or logistical support had arrived in the district.

Kunduz lawmaker Abdullah Qarluq told The Associated Press that the Taliban had taken complete control of Qalay-i-Zal "and also 98 percent of Dasht-i-Archi."

He put Afghan security forces' deaths at 11, for both army and local police. The conflicting casualty figures could not immediately be reconciled.

The Taliban have escalated their attacks as part of their summer offensive against Afghan government forces.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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