Taliban Fighters Try to Take Afghan City, Killing at Least 14

Smoke rises into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital Ghazni

The Taliban has attacked the eastern Afghan city of Ghazni, leaving dozens dead and wounding at least 100 before government troops forced the militants to retreat, officials said.

Taliban fighters hiding inside homes in the city's residential areas slipped into the streets attacking Afghan security forces, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told Associated Press.

US warplanes, drones, and helicopters came to the aid of the Afghan forces before they managed to repulse the Taliban assault.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city".

Administrator of the Ghazni city hospital, Baz Mohammad Hemat, said 14 security forces were killed and 20 security personnel were wounded.

"Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties", the USA spokesman told AFP, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in the response.

"U.S. forces responded with close-air support and conducted one drone strike", O'Donnell said.

Officials said clashes between security forces and the Taliban started at around 2.00 a.m., forcing the closure of the main highway linking Ghazni to the capital Kabul, 150 kilometers (95 miles) to the northeast.

Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban were using loudspeakers at the mosque to warn residents to stay in their homes. "There has not been a single minute of silence for the last eight hours", said a senior government official in Ghazni.

The attacks began around 2am with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in Ghazni city.

"We have discovered and transported 40 bodies from the area, so far", district governor Faiz Mohammad said, adding that a number of security forces were still missing.

"It is not possible to get out of our homes to help the injured or collect bodies", he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed parts of Ghazni had been seized and scores of people killed.

Airstrikes called in to quash the offensive also killed dozens of Taliban, Mashal said. The US disputed that figure, saying initial reports indicated there were "minimal Afghan security force casualties".

"This is yet another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching, but strategically inconsequential headline", he said.

The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government to conduct direct peace negotiations.

The Taliban have so far failed to take and hold any provincial center since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 before being driven off with the support of US air strikes and Special Forces units.

The attack followed a similar assault on Farah in May, when fighters came close to overrunning the city in western Afghanistan.

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