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Taliban attack on Afghan city of Ghazni enters third day

12 August 2018

The statement, issued as Taliban fighters were battling government forces for control of the central city of Ghazni, adds to a mixed series of signals since an unexpected three-day truce during the Eidul Fitr holiday in June.

Taliban militants launched an attack Friday on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni.

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

Most communication with the city of 250,000 was cut off, and Taliban fighters were described as attacking key government buildings and taking over homes and shops in various neighborhoods.

The Taliban emerged out of the Afghan Civil War and took control of the country in the early 1990s, enforcing its strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law.

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Taliban representatives have met United States officials to talk about the framework for possible peace talks and the government is considering offering a second ceasefire during the Eidul Azha holiday later this month. Quoting a hospital official, Afghanistan's 1TV television reported more than 90 members of the security forces and 13 civilians had been killed, with more than 100 wounded.

"We also call on the Taliban's other group to join the government like this group and return to their normal life", said Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council.

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

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.

"It is over and the city is taken", said a man standing outside his home, with several Taliban insurgents nearby. One lawmaker said that only the governor's office, the police headquarters and the intelligence police facility remained in government hands.

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US military headquarters in Kabul said sporadic clashes were occurring and American aircraft had conducted five strikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday.

The sustained onslaught by hundreds of Taliban fighters is similar to several previous attacks on major cities, especially a 2015 assault on Kunduz in the north and an attack in May on Farah city in the west.

The US presented it as a "failed attempt" to capture the city, and said that with close air support, Afghan forces were able to hold their ground.

The Taliban have not taken a major provincial centre since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 and the assault on Ghazni was a major blow to the Western-backed government just weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20.

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Taliban attack on Afghan city of Ghazni enters third day