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Taliban storms strategic Afghan cityMore

Taliban storms strategic Afghan cityMore

KABUL - Taliban insurgents attacked police headquarters and other government buildings in Ghazni in central Afghanistan on Sunday and were threatening to seize control of the city, with the main highway now heavily mined, local lawmakers and residents said. At Sanayi High School, where the day before there had been a large Afghan police check post, now there were a half-dozen Taliban fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47s.

Paktia borders Ghazni but the direct route has been under Taliban control recently, said a source adding that the convoy was forced to take a long route - through Logar and Wardak provinces - in order to get to Ghazni.

In a statement late Friday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group held control of "several places in the city", while the police chief had fled toward the airport.

Taliban forces have been making inroads in several parts of Afghanistan with major offensives in recent months.

A spokesman for United States (US) forces in Afghanistan also described the fight for the city as a clearance operation, with sporadic clashes between security forces and insurgents punctuating relative calm.

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The insurgents began the attack by entering homes in Ghazni and then slipping out into the night to attack security forces.

Afghan special forces were deployed to the city, and US forces carried out a drone strike early Friday and responded with close-air support, dispatching AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the city.

More than 100 people have been killed and 133 injured in the ongoing Taliban attack in Afghanistan Ghazni.

Fighting flared in seven neighborhoods of Ghazni, including three pockets within a half-mile of the governor's residence, said Nasir Faqiri, a member of the provincial council. While they had briefly overrun the small cities of Farah, earlier this year, and Kunduz twice, in 2015 and 2016, neither of those cities have the symbolic and military importance of Ghazni.

A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said around 80 members of the security forces, as well as an unknown number of civilians had been killed. Most of the casualties were Taliban, he said.

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"Afghan security forces in the next two days will be able to restore peace and stability to Ghanzi and reopen the highway to enable our countrymen to travel from south and west to Kabul", vowed the army chief.

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.

The Taliban say they met with Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, in Qatar last month for preliminary talks.

Mohammad Rahim Hasanyar, a senator from the province, said reinforcements from the capital, Kabul, had not moved past Rawza, a town located 2km north-east of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name.

"In addition to the initial strike, close-air support and B-1 show of presence on Friday, US forces conducted five strikes yesterday (Saturday) and 10 thus far today".

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