Kabul, Afghanistan – Late on Sunday afternoon, the Taliban flew its flag from the principle roundabout within the northern metropolis of Kunduz.
It marked the third time in seven years that the armed group had managed to wrest management of what the federal government had hoped could be a mannequin for all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Kunduz is the fifth northern provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in lower than per week, and the sixth total within the nation. The fall of the cities come amid an intensifying Taliban offensive as US and NATO forces full their remaining withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Residents chatting with Al Jazeera mentioned the Taliban’s offensive on the eponymous capital started early on Saturday morning and by the following afternoon, the group had formally seized management of Afghanistan’s fifth-largest metropolis.
Farhad, a shopkeeper who would solely give his first identify, mentioned the town’s marketplaces are in shambles.
Hundreds of storefronts have been destroyed within the preventing, leaving 1000’s of individuals with out an revenue till they will rebuild.
However, as preventing continues within the metropolis, that monetary uncertainty might final for days, if not weeks at a time when the Afghan economic system has already been devastated by rising insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A video posted by the defence ministry on Saturday confirmed commandos patrolling and firing from the world round one of many metropolis’s shuttered markets.
Residents chatting with Al Jazeera mentioned the town’s important market caught hearth from a authorities air raid concentrating on a close-by Taliban hideout on Sunday.
Farhad’s electronics retailer was near the town’s important roundabout, it too was destroyed within the hearth.
He mentioned the air assault turned lots of of outlets into ash in a matter of minutes.
“There are air strikes and clashes on the ground, who can go and put out the fires?” Farhad mentioned.
As plane continues to fly throughout the Kunduz skies, residents remained locked of their houses, afraid of venturing out and danger being caught within the crossfire.
Zabardarst Safi, the provincial police chief, mentioned the safety forces had been persevering with with their operations and attempting to clear the town of the Taliban, however that the armed group was creating additional challenges by getting into civilian houses.
“The Taliban are in residential areas, so we have to be extra cautious to not harm civilians.”
He mentioned warning might delay the federal government’s efforts to regain management of the town.
Other residents mentioned regardless of their claims of bringing order, the Taliban instantly started firing on civilians and safety forces.
The Kunduz Regional Hospital mentioned that by Monday, that they had handled not less than 97 wounded sufferers.
An extra 14 sufferers had been declared lifeless on arrival. All had been civilians.
However, residents mentioned the precise variety of casualties could also be a lot larger as lots of of residents stay trapped of their homes, afraid of venturing outdoors.
The reliance on air assaults by authorities forces and using mortars by the Taliban have led to elevated civilian casualties in current days, residents in Kunduz instructed Al Jazeera by cellphone.
A video purporting to indicate a Taliban-fired mortar hitting a residential property and killing a younger man has made the rounds on-line, and is getting used as proof of indiscriminate assaults on civilian areas.
Those who could make it out, usually find yourself dashing their lifeless to close by cemeteries for burial, relatively than risking a journey of even 15 minutes to the town’s important hospital, which is situated on the best way to the intelligence directorate and the governor’s compound, each of which had fallen into Taliban fingers.
Though Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry posted a video of an air assault on supposed Taliban hideouts on the outskirts of the town, residents mentioned the Afghan National Security Forces have suffered heavy casualties during the last 72 hours.
Farzad, one other Kunduz resident, mentioned his brother, an injured policeman, was on the provincial police headquarters when the Taliban stormed into the compound on Sunday morning.
Farzad mentioned his brother was shot on website, including that the Taliban began firing upon getting into the compound, leaving dozens of policemen lifeless and injured.
Even these individuals who managed to flee stay afraid.
Sediqa Sherzai, who runs a neighborhood radio and TV outlet within the metropolis, fled to Kabul 12 days in the past – simply as she had in 2015, when the Taliban first took Kunduz.
In current weeks, Sherzai and her household had obtained repeated warnings from the Taliban to finish their broadcasts. As the group moved nearer to the town, her household’s fear grew.
Because her workplaces had already been burned down as soon as by the Taliban six years in the past, they took the threats severely, and in late July, the household moved to Kabul.
“I have been personally threatened. I can tell you that the Taliban do not want women working in the media or even going out in public,” Sherzai mentioned.
But Sherzai mentioned she was not alone, as dozens of different feminine activists and professionals have fled the province in current weeks.
‘No one to hear our voices’
Fawzia Yaftali, deputy head of the Kunduz provincial council, mentioned the most recent Taliban takeover was one other instance of presidency neglect in direction of their province.
Over the final six years, the province has been witnessing excessive charges of crime and rising drug commerce.
Residents mentioned native safety and authorities officers had a hand in that commerce, together with mafias that relied on the Taliban for defense alongside trafficking routes.
Additionally, for years, Kunduz has suffered from the violence of air and drone assaults and the alleged abuses of strongmen supported by the federal government.
All of which, residents like Yaftali say, weakened authorities and safety establishments of their already susceptible province.
Yaftali mentioned that on Friday, she and different native leaders, requested the defence and inside ministries for help, however that their calls went unanswered.
“We informed senior officials in Kabul to take some sort of measure for Kunduz because the Taliban are planning a major attack on the city, but they didn’t take our warning our seriously,” Yaftali mentioned.
Yaftali and different Kunduz residents mentioned the opposite eight districts within the province had been within the fingers of the Taliban for months.
This is even supposing in 2015, President Ashraf Ghani had hoped to make use of Kunduz for instance of the sweeping safety reforms he needed to deliver all the nation’s provinces.
Residents say relatively than securing the province, Kunduz has turn into more and more unsafe with every passing 12 months.
“There is no one to hear our voices,” mentioned Farhad, the shopkeeper, “except for God”.