Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Taliban launches brazen attack on strategic Afghan city of Ghazni

Taliban launches brazen attack on strategic Afghan city of Ghazni

The bodies of dozens of Afghan soldiers have been found at a base that Taliban fighters attacked last week in the southern province of Uruzgan, military officials say.

Sources said that Kabul-Ghazni Highway has been closed to traffic following heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban.

Taliban militants have launched an attack on an Afghan provincial capital and heavy fighting is under way as security forces try to beat them back, with terrified residents cowering in their homes amid explosions and gunfire.

Among the injured were four Afghan troops who were hurt when their helicopter crash-landed during the fighting, said Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish.

The Ghazni attack began around 2 a.m. with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in the city's residential areas, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told The Associated Press.

A local hospital said at least 14 Afghan policemen had been killed in the fighting, while security officials said there were dozens of dead Taliban fighters.

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"U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni", the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted Friday.

'Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties, ' the U.S. spokesman said, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in the response.

To hold onto the city in the fierce, daylong fighting, Afghan forces had to call in reinforcements as well as USA air power, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and a drone strike.

The brazen assaults by the Taliban, who have been gaining more ground in their annual spring offensive and who have shrugged off the government's latest offers of a cease-fire and negotiations, underscore the difficulties Afghan forces face in battling the relentless insurgency on their own in efforts to end the almost 17-year war.

There were still Taliban fighters who had hunkered down in elevated positions from which they were still shooting, the residents said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear for their safety.

But with Taliban fighters believed to be hiding in residential areas, it was unclear whether the government had full control of the city, with communications badly hit after a number of telecoms installations were destroyed.

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Hamidullah Nawrozi, member of Ghazni Provincial Council, told TOLOnews that "Ghazni city will fall to the Taliban if reinforcements were not sent".

The assault comes as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts.

"Asian countries including China are continuing their efforts for peace talks in Afghanistan and we warmly welcome their efforts and hope that these efforts finaly bring the Taliban to the negotiation table", said deputy spokesman to CEO Abdullah Abdullah Omaid Maisam. Washington has repeatedly refused, saying negotiations must be Afghan-led.

The Taliban attack came as Ghazni contemplated a cease-fire offer to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha later this month.

While he said such a move is probably not imminent, "a few more headlines that show "his generals" are "failing" in Afghanistan could produce some personnel moves, and then a policy shift".

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