Scores killed in battle for key Afghan city

Scores killed in battle for key Afghan city”

Previous reinforcements have fallen prey to Taliban ambush and Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter that Taliban forces are blocking all roads to Ghazni.

Mohammad Rahim Hasanyar, a senator from the province, informed the public that Army reinforcements from Kabul the Afghan capital had not moved past Rawza, a town about 2km northeast of Ghazni, the capital of the province which bears the same name.

Local lawmaker Chaman Shah Ehtemadi told Reuters news agency: "Only the governor's office, police headquarters and intelligence agency's compound are in the hands of the government and Taliban are pushing to take them".

The Taliban launched a massive attack on Ghazni on Friday, overwhelming the city's defences and capturing parts of it. The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital, Kabul. Afghan officials said United States special forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations but there was no confirmation from USA military headquarters in Kabul.

Ghazni lies along the major Kabul-Kandahar highway, effectively serving as a gateway between Kabul and the militant strongholds in the south.

"The Taliban have failed in reaching their goal", he added.

Col. Fared Mashal, the province's police chief, say majority of the insurgents fighting in Ghazni are foreigners, including Pakistanis and Chechens.

At a news conference in Kabul, Bahrami said the casualty figures are not definite and that the numbers might change.

Barmak said 70 soldiers and policemen were killed in the fight.

Interior ministry officials said the fighting had killed at least 15 civilians and wounded more than 400. The fighting since has been ferocious and many Afghan troops and insurgents are believed to have died in the battle so far. "They were entering people's houses and taking food", a resident of Ghazni said.

"No country is able to man every kilometer of its territory by a soldier", she said.

Afghan officials differed in their account, saying almost 200 Taliban fighters have been killed.

At a hospital in the city wounded people could be seen groaning in agony on stretchers, while uncovered wooden coffins filled with bodies were laid on the floor. "My brother has been lying here and no one takes care of him".

The United Nations has expressed its concern for the civilians caught up in the fighting in Ghazni.

The government in Kabul insisted that Ghazni was under its control but residents reported fierce clashes in several districts of the city and streets strewn with corpses.

With residents reporting power remained out in the city, she said the Red Cross was able to reach the hospital on Monday during a brief lull in fighting, providing almost 200 litres of fuel for its generator and medical supplies for over 100 people.

Ghazni's hospitals are running out of medicines and people are unable to safely bring casualties, Peeperkorn's statement added.

The city's power remained cut, with food prices rising, they said.

At least 95 Taliban combatants were killed in the air strikes, Bahrami said. Additionally, he said Highway 1 remains open and Afghan forces are occupying key checkpoints to maintain security.

There were quick assurances that the Taliban had been pushed back to the outskirts shortly after Friday.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, but have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces as they have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban.

President Ashraf Ghani is said to be considering a cease-fire offer to the Taliban for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts August 21. The strikes have killed more than 140 insurgents since Saturday.

Still, Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace said Washington would welcome a "constructive" Russian role in finding a way toward a peace pact in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say they met with Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, in Qatar last month for preliminary talks. "High profile talks by foreign governments with the Taliban that exclude the Afghan government risk providing too much legitimacy to the Taliban without getting much in return", Wilder said.

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