Afghan security forces retook a key district in the north of the country on Tuesday, just two days after Taliban fighters captured it — a victory which had brought the militants within touching distance of taking a major city for the first time since 2001.
The Chardara district is just a few miles from the northern city of Kunduz, which lies on the border with Tajikistan. Taliban militants initially captured the district over the weekend with militants reaching a bridge just two miles from Kunduz's provincial governor's city center compound. But a night of heavy fighting from Monday into Tuesday ended in government forces dislodging the insurgents.
"New reinforcements arrived in Kunduz from northern provinces. They have inflicted heavy casualties on the insurgents and pushed them back from Chardara district," provincial police chief Abdul Saboor Nasrati told Reuters. "We are pursuing them and the gun battle is still ongoing," he added.
If Kunduz had been fully captured by the militant forces it would be the first provincial capital to be brought under the Taliban's control since an American-led invasion of the country in 2001 toppled the hardline regime. The city was under siege last summer but managed to withstand the offensive.
Fighting in the country has surged in recent months since the Taliban announced the start of its annual spring fighting season. This is the first time Afghan National Security Forces have had to fight without the support of the US and NATO combat troops, who withdrew from the country in late 2014.
A coordinated attack by the militants on the Afghan parliament in Kabul on Monday killed a woman and a child and injured dozens.