Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Taliban storms strategic Afghan city

Taliban storms strategic Afghan city

USA forces "responded with close-air support" in Ghazni while Afghan security forces "held their ground" and maintained control of all government buildings.

Mobile services in the city remained down after militants damaged a telecommunication tower and targeted several media offices in Ghazni, making information hard to verify.

His words were echoed by Gen Yafti, who told reporters: "Strategic locations and centres in the city are under the control of Afghan forces and the Taliban are hiding inside people's homes and shops and resisting".

According to the officials, the Taliban fighters joined the peace process as a result of efforts by the High Peace Council (HPC) and in corporation with government forces. One lawmaker said that only the governor's office, the police headquarters and the intelligence police facility remained in government hands.

The attack was the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban since an unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary pause, providing war-weary Afghans some welcome relief from the fighting. Local television station 1TV says the number of fatalities has risen to more than 100, but there is no official confirmation.

A senior Taliban official said the movement had established a political office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent aimed at developing better ties and showing that they did not intend to support local militant groups.

Security officials said that due to clashes in parts of Sayed Abad district in Wardak province, the Kabul-Kandahar highway is still close to traffic.

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The early morning's assault on Ghazni was the latest in a string of attempts by the Taliban to overrun urban centers since the Afghan government called off a unilateral cease-fire with the militant group that was in place for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam's holy month of Rmadan.

With the highway heavily mined to prevent reinforcements from arriving, residents were largely blocked inside but some who managed to escape across fields on the city's periphery said many government buildings were ablaze.

A US military spokesman said Sunday that American aircraft had conducted five airstrikes on Saturday and 10 on Sunday.

Abdul Wakil, who had managed to flee, told Reuters: "There was burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city".

On Sunday, Lt Col Martin O'Donnell, US Forces Afghanistan spokesperson, said the Afghan army "continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centres".

The Taliban have not taken a major provincial centre since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 and the assault on Ghazni was a major blow to the Western-backed government just weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20.

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