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Afghan Troops Hold Kunduz Square       10/07 06:18

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan troops have regained control of the main 
square in Kunduz, a strategic northern city briefly seized by Taliban 
insurgents last week that has been the scene of intense fighting, officials 
said Wednesday.

   During the fight to retake the city, a U.S. airstrike destroyed a hospital 
run by Doctors Without Borders, killing at least 22 people. The international 
charity on Wednesday called for an independent fact-finding mission to 
determine whether the strike violated the Geneva Conventions.

   A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said some "scattered elements of the 
enemy" remain in residential areas of Kunduz as operations continue to clear 
the Taliban from the city.

   "Afghan forces have control of Kunduz city, however some scattered elements 
of the enemy are still hiding in the residential areas inside people's houses," 
deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said. "This could at times slow down the speed 
of our military operations as we put the utmost effort into not harming 

   He added that Ghani has ordered the continuation of operations to "fully 
clean the city, province and the entire northeastern region of terrorist 

   Taliban fighters seized control of Kunduz city, capital of the province of 
the same name, for three days last week. After sealing the city and mining 
roads, they looted and burned government buildings and businesses, and harassed 
journalists and women's and human rights workers.

   The government launched its counter-offensive on Thursday, and troops have 
since fought intermittent running battles with insurgents, who have launched 
attacks on security forces from the rural outskirts of the city, officials and 
residents have said.

   Authorities Wednesday had no precise casualty figures, though the number of 
dead and wounded is believed to be in the hundreds.

   Sarwar Hussaini, the spokesman for the Kunduz provincial police chief, said 
Wednesday the government had regained control of the main square, which had 
traded hands several times, with each side tearing down the other's flag and 
hoisting its own.

   "The national flag is flying over the main square, shops have re-opened and 
life is returning to normal," he said, adding that main roads running east and 
south have opened and traffic is starting to flow.

   The security situation remains fluid, however, with fighting on the 
outskirts of the city in recent days. Residents said militants have regrouped 
in the Chahar Dara district to the west, where they have had a presence for 
some months.

   Bilal Ahmad, a grocer, said he hesitated to open his shop because of the 
tenuous situation. He said tanks have moved into the main square.

   Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, meanwhile called 
for the first-ever fact-finding mission to be launched under the Geneva 

   MSF's international president, Joanne Liu, told reporters in Geneva that the 
strike "was not just an attack on our hospital, it was an attack on the Geneva 
Conventions. This cannot be tolerated."

   Liu said MSF is "working on the assumption of a possible war crime," but 
said the group's real goal is to establish facts about the incident and the 
chain of command, and clear up the rules of operation for all humanitarian 
organizations that work in conflict zones.

   The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, 
said Tuesday that the strike was a mistake, and investigations are underway.


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