Afghan officials say they have regained control of key areas of the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban.
An operation launched overnight saw forces recapture government landmarks and inflict heavy casualties on the militants, officials said.
But the Taliban has insisted it still controls large parts of the city.
The city’s capture on Monday by the militant group was a huge blow to President Ashraf Ghani, coming on the first anniversary of his taking power.
If confirmed this represents a crucial victory for the Afghan army, its biggest test since the withdrawal of coalition forces back in December last year.
And it would be a dramatic turn-around. On Wednesday it looked as if retaking Kunduz would involve a tough battle. Eyewitnesses reported Taliban fighters mining roads and digging in to strategic positions ready to defend their prize.
Yet the Afghan government is today claiming that its forces swept the Taliban out of Kunduz in a couple of hours.
It is jubilant at what will be seen as a crucial victory in the battle against the Taliban insurgency. “This is a huge blow for the Taliban”, Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the interior minister said. “It proves Afghan special forces are elite fighters who can win battles.”
The government assault began overnight with fighters infiltrating the city and launching a series of simultaneous attacks from different positions.
Kunduz police chief spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told BBC Afghan on Thursday that the military had retaken the governor’s office, the police chief’s office and the intelligence agency building, adding: “Taliban bodies are lying around.”
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted that the city had been re-taken. He later told the AP that 200 Taliban fighters were killed in the operation and said an operation to “clear the city” of the last pockets of resistance was ongoing and could take some days.
But the Taliban denied what it called “enemy claims regarding the Kunduz situation”.
“Mujahideen [Taliban fighters] are resisting in the city’s security circle,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters, adding that the militant group still controlled most of the city and surrounding districts.
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