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

Taliban Launch Major Attack On Afghan City Casualties Officials

The Taliban began the attack late Thursday from several positions around the city, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told AFP.

Taliban militants have launched an attack on an Afghan provincial capital and heavy fighting is under way as security forces try to beat them back, with terrified residents cowering in their homes amid explosions and gunfire.

Baz Mohammad Hemat, the administrator of the city hospital, told The Associated Press that at least 14 police officers were killed and 20 members of the security forces were wounded before the militants were pushed back. So far two civilians were wounded, but Hemat said the city was shut down and ambulances were not being sent out.

Mr. Mashal said 12 police had been wounded and there were more than 100 other casualties.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city", and that they killed and wounded 140 security forces. The spokesperson said that a group of Taliban fighters who had made their way into the city were holed up near the provincial police headquarters and were firing on the building, CNN reported.

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

"We have discovered and transported 40 bodies from the area so far", Chinartu district Governor Faiz Mohammad said on August 9.

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The Taliban have so far failed to take and hold any provincial centre since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 before being driven off with the support of USA air strikes and Special Forces units. "There has not been a single minute of silence for the last eight hours", said a senior government official in Ghazni.

After dawn Friday, Ghazni's residents were staying indoors and all shops in the city remained closed.

"US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni", the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted on Friday.

The insurgents have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts. But Washington indicated a change in its longstanding policy in June when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was prepared to "support, facilitate and participate" in talks.

By midday Friday, O'Donnell said that fighting was continuing inside Ghazni, prompting the US forces to return American attack helicopters and fighter jets to the area soon after they were initially pulled back.

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

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

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