Taliban, Kabul government both claim embattled Afghan city

Fight for Afghan city rages despite govt claim of upper hand

Afghan forces launched a clearing operation today, searching for Taliban fighters following a major assault on the southeastern city of Ghazni, after USA air strikes targeted insurgents trying to overrun the city.

The Taliban fighters set fire to the local TV building and also destroyed the telecommunications tower, located just outside the city, cutting all cellphone and land line access to Ghazni, said Ali Akbar Kasemi, a lawmaker from the city.

Tolo News reports that Afghanistan's Army Chief of Staff Mohammad Sharif Yaftali is slated to arrive in the province later on Sunday to take charge of the situation.

Almost two days after Taliban fighters struck the city in a multipronged, nighttime attack that left many of its 143,000 residents cowering in fear, gloom was setting in, despite official assurances that the situation was under control.

Ghazni - around two hours by road from the capital Kabul - has been under increasing danger from massing Taliban fighters for months, with reports suggesting insurgents had infiltrated the city at will.

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.

He said: "The Afghan National Army strongly and swiftly reinforced Ghazni City after Afghan security thwarted Friday's Taliban attack".

Residents fleeing the city described streets littered with the unrecovered bodies of policemen, insurgents and civilians a day after the Taliban staged a large-scale attack in an effort to overrun the strategic city.

"Intense fighting is still ongoing in Ghazni city.

Danish confirmed that 25 Afghan security forces, as well as one Afghan journalist, had been killed in the fighting.

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.

Along a 3-mile stretch of the city, there were four Taliban checkpoints, each with a commandeered vehicle and a pair of motorcycles among four fighters, who appeared on their guard but unworried. The Taliban said they expect another round of talks.

The ambush happened about 80km from Ghazni city. They said they were continuing to fight.

Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban had used loudspeakers at the mosque after entering the city to warn residents to stay in their homes.

In recent years the insurgents have seized several districts across the country and staged near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces, but have been unable to capture and hold urban areas.

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.

Last year, there were reports that the son of Tahir Yuldashev, the powerful Uzbek leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in a USA missile strike in Pakistan in 2009, was leading efforts to help expand IS influence in Afghanistan.

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