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AFGHANISTAN

‘We fear bombs more than the Taliban,’ says Kunduz resident

Taliban insurgents in the streets of Kunduz on Monday. Screen grab from the video below.
Taliban insurgents in the streets of Kunduz on Monday. Screen grab from the video below.
Text by: Alijani Ershad
4 min

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The Taliban attacked the northeast Afghan city of Kunduz on Monday, taking control of the city centre and army strongholds. According to one of our Observers who managed to escape, the city is now on lockdown and her friends and family who weren’t able to flee are now hiding indoors. However, she told FRANCE 24 they fear army air strikes more than the Taliban.

Zarghouneh Hasan is a local journalist. She has been threatened multiple times by the Taliban for her reporting.

Kunduz on Tuesday.

“I put on a burqa in order to hide my identity”

Sunday night, we heard the sound of clashes. They were taking place in the villages around the city. These kinds of clashes between the Taliban and the army aren’t rare, so we didn’t worry too much. Plus, the city is full of the army’s soldiers, so we thought we would be safe.

When they entered the city at about 4:30pm on Monday, we were shocked. Stores and markets shut down immediately, and in a matter of hours, the most populated city in northeast Afghanistan became a ghost town. The Taliban quickly advanced street by street, putting their flags in the most important parts of the city.

Taliban insurgents in Kunduz on Monday. 

When I heard that the clashes were approaching my neighbourhood, I put on a burqa in order to hide my identity and I left. First, I boarded a minibus packed with dozens of women and children and a few men. It took us out to the suburbs, which were still within the perimeter encircled by the Taliban. To cross Taliban lines, we had to walk, trying to hide ourselves as best we could to avoid ambushes. I don’t know how long we walked – hours and hours – until we reached another city, from which I took a car heading to Kabul, where I am now.

As I was leaving Kunduz, I saw dozens of dead civilians – they had been caught in the crossfire.

“Bombs can’t tell the difference between insurgents and civilians”

Many people were not as lucky as I was, and weren’t able to flee. Journalists and activists have had to hide in friends’ homes, because the Taliban have quite a few supporters in Kunduz, and these supporters might point them to home addresses. A lot of people have also taken refuge at the airport, which remains under army control.

One of our Observers from Kunduz sent us this photo of smoke coming from the local power plant on Monday. 

My biggest fear – and I know it’s also the biggest fear of my friends and family stuck in Kunduz – is not so much the Taliban as the possibility that our city will get bombed by the Afghan army and US forces.

Last time they intervened like that, in 2015, their bombs killed so many civilians. They couldn’t tell the difference between civilians and Taliban insurgents.

Recapturing the city will no doubt take weeks, because the army will have to search for insurgents house-by-house, which is a very time-consuming mission. It’s really a horrible situation. I worry that my friends and family may be killed not just by the Taliban, but also by Afghan or American attacks.

The Taliban were first ousted from Kunduz in 2001. They retook the city in September 2015, but two weeks later, they were ousted again.

Their 2015 occupation of the city led to major civilian losses, with the UN estimating that more than 800 civilians were killed or injured as the Taliban battled Afghan and US forces for control. The estimate includes casualties from a US air strike on a hospital run by Doctors With Borders. The group says at least 42 people were killed in the incident.

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