Afghan officials: Taliban attack eastern provincial capital Ghazni

Taliban fighters storm Afghanistan's Ghazni seize parts of city

The defense ministry in Kabul said the attackers had been beaten back 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.

Secret talks were recently held in Qatar between Taliban and United States officials after an unprecedented three-day ceasefire during Eid celebrations in June that was largely respected by both sides.

An Afghan military helicopter had crashed during the battle, though an army spokesman said it was not clear if it had been shot down.

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

The attack comes as pressure continues on the Taliban to enter peace talks with the Afghan government.

Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months with heavy fighting in surrounding districts.

After repulsing the daring assault, police conducted house-to-house searches for any remaining Taliban fighters.

Within hours, the Taliban claimed to have much of the capital under their control.

"So far 140 enemy forces have been killed or wounded", the group said.

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Mashal said there were more than 100 other casualties but he could not give a breakdown of the dead and wounded.

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in the onslaught and confirmed the airstrikes. Bodies of 39 Taliban fighters were recovered from beneath a bridge in the southern edge of the city.

Ghazni police said Kabul-Ghazni Highway has been closed to traffic following heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban.

'Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties, ' the U.S. spokesman said, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in the response.

"Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines", U.S. Forces-Afghanistan tweeted.

"It is a show of presence", he said.

There were conflicting reports from residents and local officials, however, with some reporting that Taliban fighters were still roaming parts of the city and that gunfire continued throughout the day, while frightened residents hid in their homes.

"We can confirm that there were attacks last night on multiple government centers in Ghazni City, Ghazni province", Lt. Col. Martin L. O'Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told TOLOnews.

The insurgents have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts.

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