KUNDUZ -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) cleared Kunduz city of Taliban militants October 12 after more than a week of battles, officials said.
In the brief time Taliban militants infiltrated the provincial capital, residents reported facing numerous and heinous atrocities.
Taliban fighters seized residents' homes and businesses and used civilians as human shields as they fought the Afghan security forces, Kunduz residents told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban ... turned our house, as well as our neighbours' houses, into trenches and military shelters," said Muhammad Wais, a resident of Kunduz city's third district who was forced to flee his house and take refuge in Takhar Province.
He recounted his experience as the Taliban besieged his area. "They did not allow us to leave our houses and to escape the war," he told Salaam Times. "The Taliban forced our families to prepare food for militants."
"Once the security forces intensified their attacks and moved closer to our area, the Taliban fled, which gave us a chance to come to Takhar Province, albeit with many difficulties," he said.
Abdur Rauf, another Kunduz resident whose carpet store was destroyed by the Taliban, had a similar harrowing experience.
"The ruthless Taliban thugs first tortured me and took the cash I had kept in my store, before torching the store to the ground," he told Salaam Times.
"This store, which I spent 20 years of my life building and developing, was all that I had," he said.
Security forces have 'full presence' in Kunduz
Kunduz Province Police Chief Brig. Gen. Qasim Jangal Bagh assured the public that Afghan security forces are sacrificing their lives to protect the people of Kunduz.
"Forces from the National Police, the National Army and the National Directorate of Security are doing all they can to protect and save people's lives and properties," he told Salaam Times.
"During several days of fighting in Kunduz, the Taliban have suffered unprecedented and heavy casualties," Bagh said. "So far, our security forces have killed dozens of Taliban members, including seven of their commanders, and we are advancing in the outskirts of Kunduz city."
"People must rest assured that we have full presence in Kunduz and that we will kick terrorists out of all areas and houses that have been used by the Taliban as military bases," he said.
Bagh had a stern warning for the Taliban. "We will turn Kunduz into a graveyard for you and all of your terrorist supporters," he said.
"The Taliban's brutality and barbarism, as well as the war imposed by this militant group, have forced thousands of people in Kunduz to leave their houses and seek refuge in neighbouring provinces," said Kunduz Provincial Council Member Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani.
"The Taliban terrorist group does not abide by any Islamic principles and laws," he told Salaam Times. "This is the reason why the Taliban, during their short presence in Kunduz, torched down people's stores and endangered the lives of hundreds of residents of Kunduz by taking shelter in people's houses."
'Kunduz people will rise up against Taliban'
"The people of Kunduz can no longer tolerate the oppression imposed upon them by the Taliban," said Kunduz Member of Parliament Kamal Sapai.
"Central and local officials should exert more efforts to restrain the Taliban, as well as to provide security for the people of Kunduz, in order to prevent the Taliban from committing further atrocities in Kunduz," he told Salaam Times.
"Our people's patience is wearing thin," he said. "If this situation persists, everyone in Kunduz will rise up against the Taliban."
Afghan Ministry of Defence spokesman Dawlat Waziri condemned the Taliban, calling it a "weak" and "cowardly" group.
"Taliban insurgents took hostages and used them as protective shields while using their houses as military trenches," he said.
"The terrorist members of Taliban do not possess the strength to face the brave members of Afghan security forces," he told Salaam Times. "This is the reason why the Taliban uses defenceless women, children and elderly people as human shields, so that they can survive and continue to fight."
Within a few days of battles in Kunduz, ANDSF were able to kill more than 300 insurgents and arrested dozens of others, Waziri said.
"The ANDSF are working day and night to destroy and annihilate the Taliban and to bring back security and stability to Kunduz," he said.