Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Afghan officials: Taliban attack eastern provincial capital Ghazni

Afghan officials: Taliban attack eastern provincial capital Ghazni

Thirty Taliban fighters and one Afghan security forces' member were killed, according to the provincial government.

After repulsing the daring nighttime assault, police were conducting house-to-house searches for stragglers and to discover how the Taliban infiltrated so deep into Ghazni city, barely 120 km south of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Heavily armed Taliban fighters attacked the strategic central Afghan city of Ghazni on Friday, burning police checkpoints and seizing control of parts of the center before being driven back by USA -backed forces, officials said.

A spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said the fighting had "ceased" Friday morning, hours after the insurgents began the assault late Thursday from several positions around the city.

Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months, with local officials warning that heavy fighting in surrounding districts showed the city was increasingly vulnerable.

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As the US and Taliban explore the next round of direct talks, attacks like the one Friday on Ghazni are a reminder of the pressure faced by Afghanistan's security forces.

US attack helicopters aided Afghan forces and there was a drone strike, he added.

Radmanish said at least 60 Taliban fighters were also killed in clashes at the base and elsewhere in the district.

He later told the Associated Press, however, that continued fighting had required US aircraft to return to the city in a "show of presence".

Police officials told AP that dozens of Taliban fighters were killed by the airstrikes.

All shops were closed, they said, as was the highway from the capital of Kabul to Afghanistan's southern provinces that runs through Ghazni.

The Taliban claimed they had downed the "enemy" helicopter in Ghazni but Radmanish said it was not immediately clear if the helicopter had been hit or crash landed due to other reasons. US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain in Afghanistan mainly in a supporting and training role in the 17-year-old war.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government of direct peace negotiations.

Anticipation has also been mounting about the possibility of a government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid-al Adha later this month.

The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war.

"His most likely move would be to revert to his earlier preference to more or less pull out of Afghanistan, leaving only a bare-bones counterterror presence, possibly secured by contractors", Markey added. Islamabad had acted as a broker for the Taliban, helping to set up negotiations with both China and the U.S., the Financial Times reported.

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