Taliban attack eastern provincial capital Ghazni
Administrator of the Ghazni city hospital, Baz Mohammad Hemat, said 15 security forces were killed and 20 security personnel were injured.
The Taliban attacked an eastern provincial capital early on Friday, leaving dead and wounded before Afghan forces pushed the militants out of the city, officials said.
The attacks began around 2 a.m. with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in Ghazni city.
Taliban fighters hiding inside homes in the city’s residential areas slipped into the streets attacking Afghan security forces, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told The Associated Press.
After repulsing the daring nighttime assault, police were conducting house-to-house searches for stragglers and to discover how the Taliban infiltrated so deep into Ghazni city, barely 120 km south of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Administrator of the Ghazni city hospital, Baz Mohammad Hemat, said 14 security forces were killed and 20 security personnel were wounded. So far two civilians were wounded, but Hemat said the city is shut down and ambulances are not being sent out.
Mr. Mashal said 12 police had been wounded and there were more than 100 other casualties. He did not say how many were dead and how many were wounded. Most of the casualties were Taliban, he said.
Several bodies of dead Taliban fighters remained on the street after the government pushed back the Taliban from the city, the police chief said.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the army helped the police and the city was under control of government forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement to the media that the Taliban entered Ghazni city around 1 a.m. local time (4.30 p.m. Thursday ET) and captured a number of strategic sites within the city.
The statement adds that hundreds of fighters, equipped with heavy and light weapons attacked the city from different directions.
Important institutions and a number of security checkpoints were taken over, the statement reads, and the battle is continuing in an effort to take more. More than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed, according to the statement.
Inside Ghazni city, residents were staying indoors making independent verification of the different claims impossible.
All shops in the city were closed due to the fighting. The road from Kabul to Afghanistan’s southern provinces was also closed because it runs through Ghazni.
The assault is the latest insurgent attack in the country since the Afghan government unilaterally called off a ceasefire that it had in place for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Taliban, along with other militant groups such as ISIS, routinely attack military and civilian targets in the country.
At least seven people were killed and more than 15 were wounded in Kabul in a suicide attack at a ministry in early June, and a further 14 people were killed and 60 injured in a suicide bomb attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport in late July. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.
The ongoing violence comes amid the release of a UN report stating the number of Afghan civilians killed in the first six months of this year has reached a record high.
Almost 1,700 civilians were killed from January 1 to June 30, a total higher than any comparable time over the last 10 years, according to the UN.
Late last month, American diplomats met face-to-face with Taliban representatives in Qatar to discuss laying the groundwork for peace talks, according to The Wall Street Journal.
US diplomats met with Taliban representatives in Qatar without Afghan government officials present, the New York Times said, citing two senior Taliban officials.
The State Department did not confirm or deny the talks, which would be a reversal of a longstanding policy and strategy toward the Taliban in Afghanistan.