Taliban fighters try to take Afghan city, kill at least 14

Blanche Robertson
August 10, 2018

Sources from Ghazni province say that heavy clashes are ongoing between government forces and Taliban in Ghazni City - in the center of Afghanistan - 148 kilometers southwest of Kabul.

Officials said Afghan special forces were also being deployed to the southeastern city of Ghazni after the latest attempt by the Taliban to capture an urban center, with the assault coming as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.

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, underscored the difficulties Afghan forces face in battling the relentless insurgency on their own in efforts to end the almost 17-year war.

He said the bodies of 39 Taliban fighters were recovered from under a bridge on the southern edge of the city.

Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish later said the army supported police and the city was now under control of government forces.

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

"Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties", the USA spokesman told AFP, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in the response. "In addition, U.S. aircraft conducted a show of presence", Lt Col. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in an emailed statement.

Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban were using loudspeakers at the mosque to warn residents to stay in their homes.

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"The Taliban are dropping missiles near residential and commercial areas".

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.

"It is not possible to get out of our homes to help the injured or collect bodies", he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed parts of the city had been seized and scores of people killed.

However, O'Donnell said initial reports indicated minimal casualties among Afghan security forces. "Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines", it continued.

The attack came amid growing hopes of talks to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan and less than two weeks before the Eid al-Adha festival, when the Western-backed government in Kabul had been considering offering a ceasefire.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government to conduct direct peace negotiations. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and USA air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

Earlier this year the Taliban briefly took the western city of Farah, and for periods in both 2015 and 2016 the militants overran Kunduz, in the north.

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