Intense fighting in Afghan city Ghazni as Taleban press their offensive

Intense fighting as Taliban presses to take Afghan city

Afghan forces battle Taliban in key city for third day

Sporadic clashes raged for a third day Sunday for the control of Afghanistan's southeastern city of Ghanzi amid conflicting claims about whether the government or the Taliban insurgency controlled key installations.

A spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said the fighting had "ceased" as of today morning, hours after the insurgents began the assault late yesterday from several positions around the city.

Yafteli pledged Ghazni would be cleared in a couple of days and the highway between Kabul and the city reopened.

On August 11, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the city was under control of the security forces, but said clearance operations were continuing.

But lawmakers from Ghazni who managed to talk to some residents said Taliban were in control of much of the city after launching an initial attack in the early hours of Friday. He confirmed Taliban attacks on "multiple government centers" and noted the involvement of USA aircraft in support of Afghan troops, who he said were holding their ground.

Local police chief Mohammad Maruf Ahmadzai said the attack killed four Afghan soldiers and that nine Taliban fighters were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

"The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain and unable to match the Afghan security forces or our enablement, retreating once directly and decisively engaged", Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell told AFP.

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.

Likewise, most residents were trapped inside the city.

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Hostilities in Ghazni have disrupted telecommunication services, making it almost impossible to verify conflicting claims about whether the Taliban or the Afghan government controlled key buildings in the city.

Such attacks are the reason why United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops remain in the country, despite primary combat objectives having been concluded in 2014.

Mr Danish said at least 25 security forces had died in the fighting along with 150 Taliban fighters.

"No one knows what the exact situation is because there is no communication service", he said. The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

"The Taliban are hiding in people's houses and avoid civilian casualties our forces are moving in slowly", said General Sharif Yaftali, Afghanistan's top military official, during a press conference Sunday.

Representatives from Afghanistan's Taliban militant group have held talks with senior officials in Uzbekistan, reportedly discussing a range of issues including transport, power lines, and the prospect of peace in war-torn Afghanistan. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

The Taliban attack came as President Ashraf Ghani contemplated a cease-fire offer to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha later this month.

The June ceasefire sparked hopes that an opportunity for peace talks between the government and Taliban may be opening.

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