Afghan national army soldiers take part in an operation against Taliban militants in Kunduz (Picture: PA).
The Taliban have launched a major assault on the Afghan city of Kunduz, despite ongoing talks with US negotiators in an attempt to end America's longest war.
Militants attacked from several directions on Saturday, prompting fierce fighting with Afghan forces.
The Taliban claim to have captured several key buildings, while Afghan officials say government forces killed more than 40 militant fighters.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said Afghan security forces were repelling the attack in some parts of the city, a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan as well as the capital, Kabul, about 200 miles away.
Mr Seddiqi said:
"As always, the Taliban have taken positions in civilian areas."
A "massive attack" was launched by the insurgents from several different points around the city overnight, said Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, spokesman for the provincial police chief.
"I can confirm that intense gun battles are going on around the city, but the Taliban have not been able to overrun any security checkpoint," he said.
Reinforcements had arrived in the city and Afghan air forces were supporting ground forces, Mr Hussaini said.
The bodies of at least three civilians were taken to Kunduz hospital and at least 41 wounded civilians of all ages had been treated, according to the provincial health director, Esanullah Fazeli.
Insurgents briefly took control of the hospital, but Mr Fazeli said the fighters left after staffers told them the patients could be hurt in any crossfire.
A second attack was launched on Sunday in Puli Khumri, with "gun battles" continuing on the outskirts of its capital, according to the Baghlan province police chief, Jawed Basharat.
There was no immediate word on any casualties following the latest attack.
The Taliban have continued bloody assaults on civilians and security forces even as their leaders meet with a US peace envoy in Qatar to negotiate an end to nearly 18 years of war.
Talks are expected to continue. Both sides in recent days have signalled they are close to a deal.
Some 20,000 US and NATO forces remain in Afghanistan after formally ending their combat role in 2014. They continue to train and support Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.