Mon, Aug 13, 2018 - Page 4 News List

‘Chaos’ as Taliban clings to Afghan regional capital

AFP, GHAZNI, Afghanistan

The fight for the embattled eastern Afghan city of Ghazni entered its third day as Taliban militants and security forces yesterday engaged in heavy clashes, after Kabul vowed that the city was firmly under government control.

A reporter on the ground said that Taliban fighters continued to roam the city, torching government offices and maintaining control of several police checkpoints, with reinforcements deployed from Kabul slowly entering the city to confront the insurgents.

Residents cowered in their homes or attempted to flee the fighting as skyrocketing inflation hit basic provisions, residents and officials said.

“The situation is chaotic,” Ghazni Provincial Council Deputy Chairperson Amanullah Kamrani told reporters from Kabul.

“In Ghazni, only the police headquarters, governor’s office and a few departments are under Afghan forces’ control — the rest are under the Taliban fighters’ control,” he added.

Ghazni resident Rahmatullah Andar described similar scenes in an interview with broadcaster Tolonews, saying that fighting continued to rage in large swathes of the city and outlying districts.

“There are not sufficient forces to repel the Taliban fighters. We have not witnessed such a large-scale attack by the Taliban before,” Andar said.

Mobile services in the city remained down after militants damaged a telecommunications tower and targeted several media offices in Ghazni, making information difficult to verify.

The descriptions stood in stark contrast to statements on Saturday from Afghan and US officials, who said that government forces were firmly in control of the city and vowed that Ghazni was in no danger of being seized by the Taliban.

Ghazni — about two hours by road from the capital, Kabul — has been under increasing danger from massing Taliban fighters for months, with reports suggesting that insurgents had infiltrated the city at will.

The onslaught was the latest attempt by the Taliban to overrun an urban center and comes as pressure increases on the insurgents to begin peace talks with the government to end the nearly 17-year-old war.

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, providing war-weary Afghans some welcome relief from the fighting.

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