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Taliban launches brazen attack on strategic Afghan city of Ghazni

The Taliban launched a brazen attack on the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni, south of the capital Kabul, ear...

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 3:05 PM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 3:05 PM

The Taliban launched a brazen attack on the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni, south of the capital Kabul, early on Friday, seizing key buildings and trading fire with security forces.

Afghan soldiers fought back as the heavily armed militants converged from four sides of the province. At least 16 people were killed and 40 injured, the majority of them Afghan security forces, Ghazni public health director Zahir Shah Nikmall told CNN.

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United States forces responded to the assault with attack helicopters and a drone strike, according to US Forces Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell.

Heavy fighting was continuing as of Friday afternoon in the city, where Afghan and NATO forces were engaging fighters "by air and ground," Ghazni government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori told CNN.

Mohammad Radmanish, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said that the Taliban had been pushed back to the outskirts of the city.

He estimated that more than 150 Taliban fighters have been killed or wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement that hundreds of fighters armed with heavy and light weapons entered Ghazni at around 1 a.m., capturing a number of strategic sites within the city and killing more than 140 Afghan soldiers. The US disputed that figure, saying initial reports indicated there were "minimal Afghan security force casualties."

In a tweet, US Forces Afghanistan called the attack a "failed attempt" to seize territory "while creating strategically inconsequential headlines."

An ambitious assault on a key city

Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, is less than 100 miles south of Kabul. It lies on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, an important artery connecting the capital to the country's southern provinces and some of its western ones.

The assault on a major population center was one of the group's most ambitious military moves in years, and was further evidence that a violent stalemate between the government and the Taliban persists. In May, the inisurgent group briefly overran the western city of Farah, but Ghazni is far more important and the scale of the attack much greater.

If the city fell to the Taliban, it would compromise the security of the capital and the eight provinces it borders.

However, while the Taliban is capable of controlling rural areas, the combination of Afghan troops with US air support has prevented its fighters from taking and holding population centers.

Friday's assault could imperil any chances of a potential ceasefire between the government and the extremist group for the Eid al-Adha festival in less than two weeks.

Ongoing violence

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 outside the capital in late July. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.

The continuing 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 past 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.

Opinion: Reasons for hope amid Afghanistan's endless war

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
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Lamar10470135
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Washington7365156
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Union596094
Pike5784152
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George491879
Scott470998
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Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
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Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
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Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
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Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
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Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
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DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
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Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
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Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
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Perry138040
Sumter131038
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