KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban seized most of a strategic city in northern Afghanistan on Monday, with heavy clashes in the streets between militants and state security forces, a lawmaker told NBC News.
All but a few neighborhoods in Kunduz, a city around 150 miles north of Kabul, had fallen to the Islamist militant group, local member of parliament Fatima Aziz said.
"I really fear a tragedy," Aziz said. "I have not been able to speak with my constituents for the past few hours and fear that the Taliban might start massacre of people once they strengthen their positions."
Local resident Shah Wali lives one block from the city's police headquarters and told NBC News there was smoke coming from the building and heavy clashes in his neighborhood. Taliban vehicles were in the streets and people hasd been warned to stay indoors, he said.
Earlier, Deputy Provincial Governor Hamdullah Daneshi said the city of 300,000 people had been split in half by the fighting, with the Taliban occupying everything north of a major highway and the government maintaining control in the south.
"The highway has become the frontline since this morning and heavy clashes are ongoing in several parts of the city," Deputy Provincial Governor Hamdullah Daneshi said.
Reuters cited one witness saying the militants had hoisted their flag in the city's main square, just 200 yards from the governor's compound.
Kunduz would be the first major city retaken by the hard-line Islamist group since it was ousted by a U.S.-led campaign in 2001. It was one of the last strongholds maintained by the group before being driven from power.