Fight for Afghan city rages despite govt claim of upper hand

Taliban Storms Key Afghan City of Ghazni

The fight for the embattled eastern Afghan city of Ghazni entered its third day as Taliban militants and security forces engaged in heavy clashes on Sunday even after Kabul vowed the city was firmly under government control.

Gen. Sharif Yaftali, army chief of staff, says all strategic and government offices in Ghazni are still under government control.

The Taliban have contested several provincial capitals over the past few years, and generally speaking have launched smaller raids against security forces, trying to soften them up and challenge the defenses within, before making serious attempts to capture them outright.

On Sunday morning, military officials told TOLOnews reporter Abdulhaq Omeri that a large number of Taliban fighters had been hiding in civilian homes in the city ahead of the initial attack on Thursday night.

The meetings in Afghanistan s northern neighbour follow recent reports that the Taliban sent similar delegations to China, illustrating the group s rising ambitions to engage in independent talks with foreign governments as momentum for a peace settlement in the country builds.

But local officials have warned for months that Ghazni, a strategic city on the main highway linking Kabul with Afghanistan's south, was under threat, with the Taliban in control of most of the surrounding province.

The Taliban, fighting to topple the Western-backed government and drive out global forces, have generally refrained from sabotaging vital infrastructure and have sought to reassure neighbouring countries about their aims.

There was no confirmed word on casualties.

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Insecurity has recently increased in Ghazni province.

There are also reports the road outside the city has been mined, making it hard for residents to escape.

"There was burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city", said Abdul Wakil, a local resident who escaped, told Reuters at a checkpoint into Kabul.

According to him, insurgents are withdrawing from the city.

The videos could not be independently verified by Reuters but they generated heavy commentary by social media users that underlined the shock caused by the attack. Clearance operations are underway and house-to-house searches are being conducted, he said.

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".

Before dawn on Friday, they carried out a raid into the provincial capital of Ghazni killing 14 police and leading to a multi-hour battle.

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