Taliban launches major attack on Afghan city, casualties

Afghanistan's defence ministry said the army helped the police and that Ghazni city was now under control of government forces

While government security forces in the city of Ghazni repulsed the multipronged attack with the help of USA air support, Taliban insurgents remained hunkered down on its outskirts, and some were still holed up in residential areas, according to Interior Ministry deputy spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi.

To hold onto the city in the fierce, daylong fighting, Afghan forces had to call in reinforcements as well as US air power, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and a drone strike.

"Heavy explosions and gunfire can be heard".

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.

The provincial governor's spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori had earlier said at least seven security personnel have sustained injuries during the attack.

He said there were many challenges at the moment regarding the issue and that the "Taliban have also some kind of topic that some stakeholders can't accept".

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense Gen. Mohammad Radmanish said the attack was carried out jointly by the militants from Maidan Wardak, Paktia, and Zabul provinces.

The Ghazni police spokesman said they had prior information about the Taliban attacks and therefore measures had already been taken to push them back.

"U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni", the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted Friday.

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Sporadic gunfire continued to echo, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as Taliban fighters continued to roam the streets. "Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines", it continued.

The Taliban frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts.

Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the attack by the insurgents was "a well-timed effort to demonstrate their military power to strengthen their negotiating position prior to another cease-fire and in the event of peace talks". Washington has repeatedly refused, saying negotiations must be Afghan-led.

But a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said fighting had "ceased" as of Friday morning.

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.

Kabul-based analyst Haroun Mir said Friday's attack may have been aimed at securing maximum leverage before engaging in formal peace talks.

An unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary halt, giving war-weary Afghans some welcome relief from violence.

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