Brazen Taliban attack raises pressure on Afghan forces

Brazen Taliban attack raises pressure on Afghan forces

Taliban militants have launched an attack on an Afghan provincial capital and heavy fighting is under way as security forces try to beat them back, with terrified residents cowering in their homes amid explosions and gunfire.

Heavy fighting was ongoing as of Friday afternoon in the city, where Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces were engaging fighters "by air and ground", Noori said.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said that during an overnight battle against the Taliban, police "called in air support, but unfortunately foreign forces mistakenly bombed their positions". The road from Kabul to Afghanistan's southern provinces was also closed because it runs through Ghazni.

Hemat, the hospital administrator, said two wounded civilians were also brought to the hospital but that the city was shut down and that ambulances were not being sent out.

"The Taliban are dropping missiles near residential and commercial areas".

Earlier, Mashal said the Taliban waged attacks at 12am midnight on security posts soon after entering the city from various directions.

At least 39 insurgents were killed, while 14 police died and 20 were wounded in the fighting, said provincial Police Chief Farid Ahmad Mashal.

The 203rd Thunder Corps of the Afghan Military in the Southeast confirmed the incident and the civilian casualties in the attack.

"US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni", the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted on Friday. "In addition, US aircraft conducted a show of presence", Lt Col Martin O'Donnell, spokesperson for US Forces-Afghanistan said in an emailed statement.

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"Attacks were underway on the governor's office, the National Directorate for Security (Afghan intelligence agency) headquarters and other government offices", he said, adding that more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed.

Police special forces have also been deployed to help block the Taliban advance, an Afghan security official said.

More than 1,000 Taliban fighters struck at night, shelling homes and destroying police checkpoints.

However, while the extremist group is capable of controlling rural areas, the combination of Afghan troops with U.S. air support has meant that they aren't capable of taking and holding population centers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed parts of the city had been seized and scores of people killed.

The Taliban are fighting the Western-backed government to restore their version of sharia, or Islamic law, after they were driven out by US -led forces in 2001.

US officials disputed the claim, saying there were "minimal Afghan security force casualties".

The attack in Chinartu district on August 3, underlined the ferocity of fighting in many areas of Afghanistan even as speculation has increased about a possible ceasefire during the Eid holiday later this month.

It has so far ignored President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations.

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