Monday, 10 December, 2018

Taliban storms strategic Afghan city

Taliban Launch Major Attack On Afghan City Casualties Officials Dozens of Afghan soldiers killed in attack on base
Ellis Copeland | 12 August, 2018, 19:25

Police special forces have been deployed to help block the Taliban advance on the city, an Afghan security official said.

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.

Heavily armed Taliban fighters attacked Ghazni city in central Afghanistan early on Friday, burning police checkpoints, shelling houses and business areas and seizing control of parts of the city, officials said. Speaking by from the city in the early afternoon, he said the government had so far failed to send reinforcements, and that if none arrived by nightfall, the city would fall.

"Attacks were underway on the governor's office, the National Directorate for Security (Afghan intelligence agency) headquarters and other government offices", he said, adding that more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed.

Officials said clashes between security forces and the Taliban started at around 2.00 a.m., forcing the closure of the main highway linking Ghazni to Kabul, 150 km (95 miles) to the northeast.

"There are Taliban militants in all roads and streets of the city, but they are facing strong resistance from government forces", he said.

"By Wednesday evening, the bodies of 27 soldiers were discovered, but a number of others are still missing, " Barekzai said.

Airstrikes called in to quash the offensive also killed dozens of Taliban, Mashal said. Residents who spoke to AFP said power has been cut to the area since fighting erupted, with heavy gunfire ringing out across the city and a government building set on fire.

People were staying indoors and all shops in the city remained closed, they said. Ghazni is an important artery connecting the capital to the country's southern and western provinces.

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"US forces responded with close-air support (US attack helicopters) and conducted one strike (drone)".

Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops at the end of 2014.

If the city were to fall to the Taliban, it would compromise the security of the capital and the eight provinces it borders.

The Ghazni attack was the second assault on an Afghan city this year.

United States attack helicopters and drone aircraft provided government forces with air support.

The Taliban are fighting the Western-backed government to restore their version of sharia, or Islamic law, after they were driven out by US-led forces in 2001.

But there are tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start talks are starting to bear fruit.

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

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