Taliban try to take Afghan city, kill at least 14

The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war

Taliban fighters armed with heavy weapons tried to overrun the provincial capital, located on the key highway between Kabul and Kandahar, last night.

He said the bodies of 39 Taliban soldiers were recovered beneath a bridge on the southern edge of the city.

In Ghazni, the attack began around 2 am (local time) with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in the city's residential areas, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told The Associated Press.

A report in 2017 by SIGAR, a U.S. Congressional watchdog, said the losses were "shockingly high" but Afghan authorities no longer release overall casualty data.

At least 14 security forces were killed and 20 wounded in the battle, said Baz Mohammad Hemat, administrator of the Ghazni city hospital. Afghan officials said only one of its fighters was confirmed killed, but a Taliban spokesman said 140 enemy forces were dead. Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the city, where Afghan special forces have been deployed.

The spokesman said the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces held their ground and maintain control of all government centers.

US attack helicopters aided Afghan forces and there was a drone strike, he added.

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

"This is yet another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching, but strategically inconsequential headline", he said.


Secret talks were recently held in Qatar between Taliban and U.S. officials after an unprecedented three-day ceasefire during Eid celebrations in June that was largely respected by both sides.

Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops at the end of 2014.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a Taliban attack Thursday night in western Herat province left six policemen dead in the district of Obe, said the governor's spokesman there, Gelani Farhad.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government of direct peace negotiations.

However there are tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to bring the insurgents to the table for peace talks may be starting to bear fruit.

But Washington indicated a change in its longstanding policy in June when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was prepared to "support, facilitate and participate" in talks.

Pompeo also said the role of foreign forces in Afghanistan would be on the table.

However, even while conducting preliminary discussions with US officials, the Taliban have launched a series of operations that underscored their ability to inflict severe damage on Afghan forces.

Anticipation has also been mounting about the possibility of a government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid-al Adha later this month.

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