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Afghan Taliban capture key district of Khanabad in Kunduz

A gun being manned by an Afghan soldier

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The security forces said they ran out of ammunition after fighting for several hours

Taliban militants have captured a key district in Afghanistan’s northern province of Kunduz, officials say.

The fighters attacked from several directions and government troops were forced to retreat to Kunduz city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last year.

A lack of ammunition and reinforcements contributed to the fall of Khanabad district, the local authorities said.

The Taliban have made gains since international troops officially ended their active fighting role in 2014.

Afghan security forces are currently battling the insurgents in nearly half of the country’s 34 provinces.

Earlier this week, the Taliban captured a district in neighbouring Baghlan province.

“The Taliban attacked the district from different positions and we resisted for hours but we received no support,” Reuters news agency quoted Khanabad district administrator Hayatullah Amiri as saying.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the militants had captured the entire district, along with weapons and military vehicles, the Associated Press news agency reports.

“If the central government does not pay attention to Kunduz, the Taliban will overrun Kunduz city as they did last year,” Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the Kunduz provincial council, told AP.

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Taliban fighters swept into Kunduz city last September, brushing security forces aside

Kunduz is one of Afghanistan’s largest cities and has long been a strategically important transport hub for the north of the country.

But it has always held symbolic significance for the Taliban because it was a key northern stronghold before 2001, when the group was ousted from power.

Taliban fighters freed more than 600 prisoners in their attack on Kunduz city last September, among them nearly 150 insurgent fighters.

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