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Taliban Take A Major City In Northern Afghanistan

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Throughout today's program, we are covering news that throws us back in time - Taliban forces have captured Kunduz, Afghanistan. The Taliban lost that city 14 years ago. In November 2001, American B-52s bombed Taliban positions. U.S.-backed forces moved into the city. And I stood in the center of town with a boy named Fahim (ph), who'd seen a battle in the street.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FAHIM: A lot of people - Afghan - were killed in the battle.

INSKEEP: You saw people killed?

FAHIM: Yes. It was war.

INSKEEP: The 11-year-old walked up a side street. A crowd of Afghans stood on the sidewalk in front of a shuttered store.

FAHIM: Here is the man die.

INSKEEP: The crowd surrounded the body of a Taliban soldier who'd been shot in the head. The dead man lay there with a rag on his face until one of the onlookers lifted it. The man's eyes were open. His gun was missing. His shoes were missing. His toes had been tied together - a traditional ritual performed here on the dead.

That was a moment of horror in 2001, but also of hope. We met a man named Mohammad Yousefi (ph) emerging from life under the Taliban. Mr. Yousefi worked at the local radio station, where the Taliban had changed the format. Radio Kunduz became the voice of Sharia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MOHAMMAD YOUSEFI: The voice of Sharia. Welcome to the voice of Sharia.

INSKEEP: You were the voice of Sharia?

YOUSEFI: In Taliban times.

INSKEEP: Really?

YOUSEFI: Mm-hm.

INSKEEP: What did they have you say?

He was told to broadcast Taliban messages about Islamic law. When the Taliban fled in 2001, Mr. Yousefi changed Radio Kunduz programming back to denounce the Taliban. It seemed like a new era. But Afghanistan's endless wars did not end. We do not know if Radio Kunduz is on the air today. We do know the city it served is back under Taliban control after the Afghan government failed to fend off its advance. The United States says its warplanes are bombing the Kunduz area, just as they were back in 2001. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.