US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

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Insurgents entered Ghazni from several directions late Thursday night, attacking media offices and damaging a telecommunications tower, effectively shutting off mobile service to the city as of Friday afternoon - making information about the fight hard to verify.

Tolo News reports that Afghanistan's Army Chief of Staff Mohammad Sharif Yaftali is slated to arrive in the province later today to take charge of the situation.

However, sporadic gunfire continued to echo into the afternoon amid intermittent clashes, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as scattered Taliban fighters roamed the streets. The road from Kabul to Afghanistan's southern provinces was also closed because it runs through Ghazni.

In response, the United States forces launched a drone strike, and later said that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces had controlled all government centers in the city.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city", and claiming to have killed and wounded 140 security forces. The fighting severely damaged Ghazni's historic neighbourhoods and cultural treasures, Bahrami said, adding that he believes the next 24 hours would turn the tide in the battle.

The attack was the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban since an unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary pause.

The battle extended into the day, and USA forces eventually sent air support to bolster Afghan security forces - this meant close air support (attack helicopters) and one drone strike.

According to military officials from 203 Tander Military Corps the clashes are still ongoing in and around the city and the Taliban has reportedly set fire to the IEC's offices.

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Earlier on Saturday the Taliban claimed victory in the fight for the city, saying their forces were in control of Ghanzi after routing Afghan troops.

However, dispelling all rumors, officials have made it clear that the Taliban are not in control of the city nor are they in control of any government facilities.

A city of about 280,000, Ghazni is on the main highway between Kabul, the capital, and the country's second-largest city, Kandahar. The Taliban said they expect another round of talks. They said they were continuing to fight. Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for USA forces in Afghanistan, said Afghan forces were engaged in a "cleanup operation", while acknowledging for the first time that "some US advisers were on the ground".

A 14-year-old girl who goes by only one name, Fereshta, said the infiltration of the city was the first time in her life that she had seen a member of the Taliban.

USA military headquarters in Kabul said sporadic clashes were occurring and American aircraft had conducted five strikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said to be considering a cease-fire offer for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Earlier this year, the USA sent more military advisers to Afghanistan.

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