Fight for Afghan city rages despite govt claim of upper hand

Heavy fighting in Ghazni as Afghan forces battle Taliban

Heavy fighting in Ghazni as Afghan forces battle Taliban

Elsewhere in the eastern province of Ghazni, Taliban fighters tried to overrun the provincial capital after attacking security forces and killing at least 14 police officers in an overnight attack on Friday.

The Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on Ghazni's outskirts, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, where shops are closed.

"The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers", in Ghazni, he said in a statement.

Several bodies of dead Taliban fighters remained on the street after government forced pushed the insurgents from Ghazni, the police chief said.

The main highway through Ghazni, the Kabul-Kandahar highway - has also been closed to traffic by the Taliban for days - which has affected hundreds of motorists.

"The Afghan peace process, withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, and restoration of peace were also brought under discussion", the Taliban statement said.

"We're winning", said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, adding that his group's fighters were seeking to rid Ghazni of government forces and include it in the 90 percent of the surrounding province he claimed militants already controlled...

Afghan special forces were deployed to Ghazni after the latest attempt by the Taliban to capture an urban centre, with the assault coming as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.

Likewise, most residents were trapped inside the city.

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"Fear is spreading in Ghazni as the day ends, the Taliban might intensify their attack as it gets dark", AFP reported Azimi as saying.

To hold onto the city in the fierce, daylong fighting, Afghan forces had to call in reinforcements as well as US air power, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and a drone strike.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, said in a statement to The Associated Press that discussions covered everything from worldwide troop withdrawal to peace prospects to possible Uzbek-funded development projects that could include railway lines and electricity.

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

In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah.

Later he said in a series of tweets that top security officials briefed him on the developing military and humanitarian situation in the city and the province.

The attack on Ghazni leaves the future of peace talks with the Taleban uncertain. The government had been considering a ceasefire for the upcoming Eid al Adha holiday, similar to a truce in June over the Eid al Fitr holiday.

"His most likely move would be to revert to his earlier preference to more or less pull out of Afghanistan, leaving only a bare-bones counterterror presence, possibly secured by contractors", Markey added. Most were believed to have been security forces personnel.

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