Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Taliban attack on Afghan city of Ghazni rages for third day

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP
Jeannette Daniel | 13 August, 2018, 00:34

Mobile services in the city remained down after militants damaged a telecommunication tower and targeted several media offices in Ghazni, making information hard to verify.

Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Afghan army chief of staff, said the city was not under threat of collapse and heavy fighting was underway to push back the Taliban from city limits.

A group of fifty Taliban fighters have joined the peace process in Badghis province, local officials said Sunday. The government in Kabul insisted that Ghazni was under its control but residents reported fierce clashes in several districts of the city and streets strewn with corpses.

"In Ghazni, only the police headquarters, governor's office and a few departments are under Afghan forces' control, the rest are under the Taliban fighters' control", he added.

The Taliban launched the assault in the early hours of Friday. Insurgent forces were said to have mined and set up checkpoints on the nearby highway, which links Kabul with the southern tribal region that is the Taliban's home turf. "We have not witnessed such a large scale attack by the Taliban before", said Andar.

A USA military spokesman said Sunday that American aircraft had conducted five airstrikes on Saturday and 10 on Sunday.

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On Sunday, Lt Col Martin O'Donnell, US Forces Afghanistan spokesperson, said the Afghan army "continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centres".

The Ghazni attack appears to be a well-orchestrated and high-profile challenge to the government and its USA supporters.

The attack, the heaviest blow struck by the Taliban since they came close to overrunning the western city of Farah in May, dampened hopes of peace talks which had grown since a surprise three-day truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in June. "The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain" and retreat "once directly and decisively engaged".

Short videos circulating on social media, purported to be from Ghazni, showed patrols by a number of heavily armed Taliban, with a large plume of smoke and flames coming out from the city.

More than a hundred Afghan troops are believed to have been killed and Taliban losses...

Residents cowered in their homes or attempted to flee the fighting, as skyrocketing inflation hit basic provisions, according to residents and officials. One man, named Abdul Wakil, who reached a police check post outside the capital, told the Reuters news agency that he had seen "burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city".

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