Taliban Storms Key Afghan City of Ghazni

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP

A Taliban attack on the Afghan city of Ghazni has entered its third day - with intense fighting and conflicting claims over who controls the strategic city.

Some Ghazni officials who are out of the province right now said telecom services are disconnected in Ghazni City and that they have not ensured communication with their families and friends since Friday evening.

Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the Afghan army's chief-of-staff, said Ghazni was not under threat of falling into the militants' hands.

Nawroz said that they contacted the interior minister, Wais Ahmad Barmak, a day before the attack and that they shared their concerns on Ghazni City situation, but according to him, the minister said that the city will not fall - to the Taliban.

Yafteli pledged Ghazni would be cleared in a couple of days and the highway between Kabul and the city reopened.

The attack comes as pressure continues on the Taliban to enter peace talks with the Afghan government. Both were retaken by government forces after heavy fighting, but the near-takeovers by the Taliban gave the insurgent group a psychological boost.

The sustained onslaught by hundreds of Taliban fighters is similar to several previous attacks on major cities, especially a 2015 assault on Kunduz in the north and an attack in May on Farah city in the west.

"It is over and the city is taken", said a man standing outside his home, with several Taliban fighters nearby.

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

The US presented it as a "failed attempt" to capture the city, and said that with close air support, Afghan forces were able to hold their ground. Officials had hoped for a second truce later this month during the Eid al-Adha holiday, but that seems unlikely. "The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain" and retreat "once directly and decisively engaged".

Short videos circulating on social media, purported to be from Ghazni, showed patrols by a number of heavily armed Taliban, with a large plume of smoke and flames coming out from the city.

"Today we are glad that a large group of our unhappy brothers who fought against the government stopped the war and handed their weapons to government and joined the peace process and by them joining the peace process the security of Badghis will improve", said Qaim.

Officials and residents told news agencies that the insurgents were attacking the police headquarters and other government buildings. Quoting a hospital official, Afghanistan's 1TV television reported more than 90 members of the security forces and 13 civilians had been killed, with more than 100 wounded.

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