The deadly air strike that hit a hospital in the Afghan provincial capital of Kunduz was a mistake, the US commander of international forces in Afghanistan said.
US Army General John Campbell said in a testimony on Tuesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the decision to carry out the strike was made within the US chain of command.
“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a US decision made within the US chain of command,” Campbell said in testimony on Tuesday to the committee.
“A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
Meanwhile, fighting erupted in the embattled city of Kunduz after the Taliban attacked a police headquarters overnight, and officials warned that food and other emergency aid could not get through to the city.
The clashes and the dire warnings on Tuesday underscored the weak hold authorities have on Kunduz, a strategic city whose brief fall to the Taliban last week was an embarrassing blow to President Ashraf Ghani.
Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, reporting from Kunduz, said gunfire and artillery could be heard almost every second in the city.
“Strong fighting is going on and it has not stopped. Afghan security forces are struggling to get control of the city – they are fighting the Taliban on almost every single street in Kunduz.
“I talked to an Afghan security official here in Kunduz, and he told us that the reason they are going so slow is because they are facing a lack of leadership and coordination. Also that the Taliban are hiding in residential areas, and it is hard to go after them because they [Afghan forces] are trying to avoid civilian casualties,” Azimy said.
The Afghan government has also been criticised for ignoring warnings earlier of Taliban threats to the city.
Battles have raged around Kunduz for the last nine days as government forces, backed by US air strikes, have tried to drive out Taliban fighters.
The Taliban managed to overrun and hold Kunduz for three days last week until government forces launched a counter-offensive on Thursday. Its brief capture was one of the Talibans’ biggest victories.
Overnight to Tuesday, several Taliban fighters managed to re-enter the city centre and attack Kunduz police headquarters and other government buildings, said Sarwar Hussaini, the spokesman for the provincial police chief.
By Tuesday morning, some gunmen had pushed their way close to the main city square. “Fighting is also going on with the Taliban near the Ghazanfar Bank, close to the main square,” Hussaini said.
Kunduz residents reported hit-and-run attacks by the Taliban, with the group making incursions into the city centre from far-flung rural areas, engaging troops, then retreating again.