kunduz.jpg
Photograph: Google maps

Taliban militants are retreating from the capital of Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province, as fighting in the capital of a southern province intensifies, official sources said on Wednesday.

"The entire Kunduz city is now controlled by the security forces and life is slowly returning to normal with shops slowly opening," said Amruddin Wali, a provincial council member from Kunduz.

Wali said the insurgents retreated from some areas without putting up a fight and in other areas engaged security forces.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, security sources say that the Taliban retreat could be a tactical one, either to send the fighters to the south for battle in Helmand or to lure special forces out of Kunduz before attacking again.

The Taliban attack on Kunduz started last Monday, a year after the militant group shocked the government and international observers by briefly taking hold of the strategically important city.

At least 35,000 people have been displaced from the city since the latest round of fighting began, according to the UN.

Meanwhile the fighting in Lashkargah city, the capital of southern Helmand province, has been getting worse for days with Taliban launching attacks in different parts of the city.

At least two locations inside the city were under attack on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, with reports of mass surrenders of Afghan security forces to the Taliban.

"Around 150 ANSF soldiers have surrendered to Taliban since the fighting has flared," said Razia Baluch, a provincial council member from Helmand province.

Soldiers from government forces who surrender can either join the ranks of the Taliban or face detention, and are released later or in some cases simply killed.

Helmand is one of the most embattled provinces in southern Afghanistan with its last two relatively safe districts more recently coming under heavy Taliban fire.

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