KABUL - The Afghan Taliban captured a strategic district in the northern province of Kunduz on Saturday, forcing troops to retreat to the provincial capital which fell briefly to the insurgents last year, officials said.
Fighting has sharply escalated in Afghanistan since the insurgency started spreading from its traditional strongholds in the south and east of the country to the once peaceful north.
The militants seized the district of Khanabad, which connects Kunduz to Takhar and other northern provinces, in the early morning, with heavy fighting ongoing in several other districts, the officials said.
"The Taliban attacked the district from different positions and we resisted for hours but we received no support. The district fell to the Taliban," said Hayatullah Amiri, the Khanabad chief.
Afghan officials in Kabul say a lack of ammunition and few reinforcements are the main reasons for the district's fall to the Taliban, who are seeking to force the NATO-led coalition out of Afghanistan and bring in Islamic law.
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