KABUL, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- At least three Afghan security forces and 38 Taliban militants were killed during clashes in Kunduz city, capital of northern Kunduz province, on Saturday, as security forces fought a tense battle to evict the militants from the city, authorities said.
The clashes started roughly at 1:00 a.m. local time Saturday after militants armed with assault rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers attacked the city from three locations, in an attack aiming to take full control of the strategic city.
"Some 38 Taliban militants were killed, 10 wounded following airstrikes in surrounding areas of Kunduz city and 32 militants surrendered to security forces since early hours of Saturday when the clashes started," the country's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The militants were using people houses, a hospital and health clinics as fighting positions and they were using civilians as human shields, the statement added.
"A counter-attack operation is ongoing but security forces are cautious to avoid civilian casualties. Their top priority is to protect the civilians," the statement noted.
Meantime, a local TV channel Tolo News TV reported that militants overran two police districts in Kunduz city and they also captured eight security force members during the clashes.
Streets were mainly deserted and most shops remained close throughout the day as heavy clashes were continuing as of Saturday afternoon across the city, 250 km north of the capital Kabul.
Mobile phone service was also cut in the city hours after fighting started.
About 20 people, including a police district chief, were wounded in the clashes, according to provincial health officials.
"The reinforcement forces arrived in Kunduz city from Kabul. The situation is under control now. The enemies will be kicked out of the city soon," Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi told local media.
Taliban militants briefly overran the city twice in 2015 and 2016 and the fresh attack came amid ongoing negotiations between Taliban representatives and a U.S. delegation in Qatar.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces remain in control of most of Afghanistan's population centers and all of 34 provincial capitals, but Taliban insurgents control large portions of rural areas, staging coordinated large-scale attacks against Afghan cities and districts since early April when the militant group launched a yearly rebel offensive.