Northern Afghan city of Kunduz falls to Taliban insurgents
The Taliban has captured the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, the first time the insurgents have seized a major urban area since the US-led invasion in 2001.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said that "Kunduz city has collapsed into the hands of the Taliban".
The insurgents launched a massive assault on the city early on Monday, seizing a courthouse, a hospital and other government buildings.
The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders says it has treated more than 100 wounded people.
The fall of Kunduz marks a major setback for Afghan government forces, who have struggled to combat the Taliban with limited aid from the US and Nato, which shifted to a training and support role at the end of last year.
Military reinforcements have been sent to Kunduz, where government forces managed to fend off a major Taliban assault earlier this year.
In a multi-pronged assault that took military and intelligence agencies by surprise, the insurgents sent hundreds of fighters into Kunduz, where they seized government buildings and freed hundreds of prisoners.
Residents said the militants reached the main square 12 hours after launching their attack. They said photographs of President Ashraf Ghani and other leaders were torn down and the white flag of the Taliban was raised. They said residents were streaming to the airport in an effort to flee.
The deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani had earlier described the situation in Kunduz as "fluid". Zafar Hashemi said the president was "in constant contact with the security and defence leadership to provide them with guidance".
"Our first priority is the safety and security of residents," he said.
The Taliban used social media to claim the "conquest" of Kunduz and reassure residents that the jobs of teachers, doctors and other civil employees, and their personal property, were safe.
General Murad Ali Murad, the Deputy Chief of Army Staff, said the attack involved a large number of Taliban drawn from across the north of the country and included foreign fighters. "Strategic areas, including the airport, are controlled by Afghan security forces," he said.
"Reinforcements have already arrived and attacks on the insurgent positions will be launched soon," he said.
Mr Sediqqi said the target of the Taliban assault was the city's main prison and police headquarters.
"Security forces in Kunduz were prepared for an attack, but not one of this size, and not one that was coordinated in 10 different locations at the same time," he said.