Wed, 20 Mar 2019

Taliban militants have launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni and heavy fighting is under way as security forces try to repel them, officials say.

At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting on August 10, provincial governor's spokesman Arif Noori told the AFP news agency.

Civilian homes and army checkpoints have come under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters are in the streets, he said.

The Taliban began the attack late on August 9 from several positions around the city 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul, provincial officials said.

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

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured 'most government buildings inside the city.'

The militant group claimed that scores of government troops had been killed or wounded while three Taliban had been killed and eight wounded.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the city was under control of government forces. The ministry did not say whether any of its forces were killed or wounded.

Baz Mohammad Hemat, the head of a hospital in Ghazni city, told the Associated Press that nine wounded security personnel were being treated at the hospital.

The attack on Ghazni was the latest in a series of attempts by the Taliban to capture urban centers.

A U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after Al-Qaeda militants whose leaders were being sheltered by the extremist group carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

But the Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militants since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

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

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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