Taliban fighters storm Afghanistan’s Ghazni, seize parts of city

Taliban fighters storm Afghanistan’s Ghazni, seize parts of city

At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting in the southeastern city of Ghazni, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori told AFP on Friday.

The attack around 80 miles south of Kabul was the militants' second all-out assault on a provincial capital this year and was one of their most audacious operations to date.

A local hospital said at least 14 Afghan policemen had been killed in the fighting, while security officials said there were dozens of dead Taliban fighters.

Still, the Afghan forces were engaged in house-to house battles in some residential areas to root out the remnants of the Taliban's attack force.

The militants took control of parts of the city before being pushed back to the outskirts, officials said.

Dead bodies of Taliban fighters remained on the street after the exchange, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told the Associated Press news agency.

"This is yet another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching but strategically inconsequential headline", he said.

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

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

Since an unprecedented Taliban cease-fire in June to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks in what would appear to be an attempt to dispel hopes of peace that followed scenes of Taliban and Afghan soldiers and police embracing and dancing in the street.

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United States forces responded with attack helicopters and a drone strike, according to US Forces Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell.

The insurgents frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.

In May the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah.

Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command has said that the US will continue putting military, social and political pressure on the Taliban to press the group to come to the negotiating table.

A statement from USA military headquarters in Kabul said fighting had ceased by 8.00 a.m. (0330 GMT) and Afghan forces had held their ground and maintained control of all government centers.

The insurgents have also so far ignored an offer by Ghani in February of unconditional peace negotiations.

He said China has always supported the issue of peace talks and that they "continue to facilitate the talks based on the principle of (it being) Afghan-led and Afghan-owned".

But a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said fighting had "ceased" as of Friday morning.

On August 6, the Financial Times reported that Chinese officials had reportedly met the Afghan Taliban several times in the past year.

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