Still photos show residents fleeing Kunduz as Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support prepare to retake the northern city from Taliban control. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support clashed with Taliban fighters in Kunduz on Tuesday (September 29) in a bid to retake the centre of the northern city, the first provincial Afghan capital to fall to the insurgents since their movement was toppled 14 years ago. The sudden fall of Kunduz on Monday (September 28) was a major setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which marked its first year in power on Tuesday, and raised questions over how ready Afghan forces were to tackle the Islamist insurgency alone. Residents were seen leaving the area as troops and security forces moved in to fight the militants. Afghanistan's Defence Ministry said government forces, who spent the night holed up at the city's airport, would soon retake Kunduz. It added that government forces had retaken the city prison and the provincial police headquarters, which were overrun on Monday night. Hundreds of Taliban prisoners escaped during the jail attack. U.S. military planes struck Taliban positions on the outskirts of the city, a NATO spokesman said. The attack at about 9 a.m. (0400 GMT) marked the first U.S. air strike to defend the city. He did not elaborate on how many coalition troops were in the area. The Taliban's new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, celebrated the Islamist militants' capture of Kunduz, saying in a statement that residents had nothing to fear. The Taliban's former government imposed strict Islamic law over Afghanistan for five years before it was toppled by a U.S.-led military intervention in 2001. Its members have been fighting an insurgency ever since, although it has increased in intensity since the beginning of the year after NATO withdrew almost all of its soldiers. That left the defence of the country largely to NATO-trained Afghan security forces, who have struggled to contain the spiralling violence.