US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city
US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city
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
10 August, 2018, 19:10
United States forces launched airstrikes on Friday to counter a major Taliban assault on an Afghan provincial capital, where terrified residents cowered in their homes amid explosions and gunfire as security forces fought to beat the insurgents back.
All shops in the city were closed due to the fighting.
An investigation is also underway on how the insurgents had managed to infiltrate so deep into the city, barely 120 kilometres 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.
An Afghan military helicopter crash landed in the city during the daytime fighting, and four Afghan soldiers on board were injured, one critically, said Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
"The Taliban are dropping missiles near residential and commercial areas". Ghazni has been under threat from Taliban fighters for months.
Thirty Taliban fighters and one Afghan security forces' member were killed, according to the provincial government.
Officials said clashes between security forces and the Taliban started at around 2.00 a.m., forcing the closure of the main highway linking Ghazni to Kabul, 150 km (95 miles) to the northeast.
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Civilian houses and army checkpoints came under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters were in the streets, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.
Friday morning's assault on Ghazni was the latest in a string of attempts by the Taliban to overrun urban centers since the Afghan government called off a unilateral ceasefire with the militant group that was in place for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam's holy month of Rmadan.
Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for USA forces in Afghanistan, said American forces and US attack helicopters had assisted Afghan troops in pushing back the Taliban during the night's multiple attacks in Ghazni.
The attack underlines the heavy losses still being suffered by security forces as they fight the Taliban insurgents.
It has so far ignored President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations.
The attack on Ghazni, the first major urban assault since May, came as Afghan and US officials have been urging the Taliban to begin peace talks and agree to a second cease-fire after a successful three-day truce in June.
Pompeo also said the role of foreign forces in Afghanistan would be on the table.
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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