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Afghan forces battle Taliban in key city for third day

14 August 2018

The attack on Ghazni, which controls a vital highway between the capital Kabul and southern Afghanistan, has given the insurgents their highest profile success since they came close to taking the western city of Farah in May.

American helicopters and drones were deployed to help push the Taliban back, the BBC reported, with multiple homes and government buildings reportedly destroyed by the fighting.

Insurgents entered Ghazni from several directions late on Thursday night, attacking media offices and damaging a telecommunications tower, effectively shutting off mobile service to the city as of Friday afternoon - making information about the fight hard to verify.

Danish said more than 150 insurgents have been killed or wounded.

By late Friday morning, at at least 16 people had been killed and many more injured.

"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.

"Communications networks and electricity supply are now down in the city, resulting in water shortages, and food is also reportedly running low", Haq said. "It is just propaganda by the Taliban", he claimed.

U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for the U.S. -led military coalition in Afghanistan, told reporters that initial reports suggested "minimal" casualties among Afghan forces. Colonel Farid Ahmad Mashal, the local police chief, posted photos of dead Taliban fighters on Facebook, claiming, "All areas are in our control".

Insurgents ambushed a large Afghan military convoy heading for Ghazni late Sunday, sparking heavy clashes about 80 kilometers from the embattled city, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Muajid told VOA.

Foreign troops have extended assistance along with air support in the fight against the militants.

Almost 200 insurgents, many of them foreigners, have been killed, the government said.

Associated Press writers Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Mohammad Anwar Danishyar in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

The Taliban have been attacking various districts of the Ghazni province for weeks. "The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers", he said.

Backed by the global community, the Tashkent conference endorsed Kabul's offer of direct talks without any preconditions and with the ultimate goal of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement with the militants.

President Ashraf Ghani is said to be considering a cease-fire offer to the Taliban for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts August 21.

Afghan forces battle Taliban in key city for third day