Tal­iban fight­ers storm Afghan city, seiz­ing ar­eas

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN

Heav­ily armed Tal­iban fight­ers at­tacked Ghazni city in cen­tral Afghanistan early on Fri­day, burn­ing po­lice check­points, shelling houses and busi­ness ar­eas and seiz­ing con­trol of parts of the city be­fore be­ing beaten back, of­fi­cials said. U.S. attack he­li­copters and drone air­craft pro­vided gov­ern­ment forces with air sup­port. But as smoke rose across the city and wit­nesses re­ported bod­ies ly­ing in the streets, and it was un­clear how much of Ghazni was un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol. The attack on a strate­gic city strad­dling the main route be­tween the cap­i­tal Kabul and south­ern Afghanistan demon­strated the Tal­iban’s strength, un­der­scor­ing how volatile the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion re­mains less than three months be­fore par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Oc­to­ber. The de­fence min­istry in Kabul said the at­tack­ers had been driven off but were still present in one area of the city and had oc­cu­pied civil­ian houses, from where they were still keep­ing up oc­ca­sional fire on se­cu­rity forces clear­ing the area. It said around 150 at­tack­ers had been killed or wounded but gave no estimate of ca­su­al­ties for civil­ians or se­cu­rity forces. A state­ment from U.S. mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in Kabul said fight­ing had ceased by 8 a.m. and Afghan forces had held their ground and main­tained con­trol of all gov­ern­ment cen­tres. “U.S. forces re­sponded with close-air sup­port [U.S. attack he­li­copters] and con­ducted one strike [drone]. In ad­di­tion, U.S. air­craft con­ducted a show of pres­ence,” Lieu­tenant-Colonel Martin O’Don­nell, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in an emailed state­ment. “The Tal­iban are drop­ping mis­siles near res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial ar­eas. There has not been a sin­gle minute of si­lence for the last eight hours,” said a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in Ghazni early on Fri­day.

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