The Taliban say they are withdrawing from Kunduz, a strategic northern city that briefly fell to the insurgents last month, as an Afghan official said life there is returning to normal.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an email to media on Tuesday that the fighters are retreating to avoid further civilian casualties.

Hamdullah Danishi, the acting governor of Kunduz province, said shops and markets in the city have reopened and residents are venturing out of their homes. He says troops are continuing search and clear operations, suspecting that some insurgents remain in the city.

The Taliban stormed Kunduz on Sept. 28 and held the city for three days before being driven back. Exact numbers of dead and wounded are unclear, but believed to be in the hundreds.