Taliban militants overrun Afghan army base, capture dozens of soldiers

Afghan security forces and Afghan militia stand along a road during clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Ghazni province

Taliban militants overran large parts of an army base in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 17 soldiers, wounding 19 and capturing dozens more in fighting over the past two days, officials said on Tuesday.

One is a shooting war, in which hundreds of Taliban insurgents overran the eastern city of 270,000, burned buildings, left at least 120 security forces and civilians dead, and sent families fleeing across fields to safety.

Around 100 Afghan troops were killed in fighting with Taliban over the strategic town of Ghazni.

From several accounts of Ghazni residents who escaped the besieged city, it was clear that the insurgents had sowed terror among the civilian populace.

Afghan troops backed by United States forces gained control over large parts of the embattled city of Ghazni on Tuesday, officials said, while reports of a Taliban attack in another province raised new questions about Afghanistan's prospects.

He added that attempts by the insurgents to hide among the residents "does pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed by this ineffective attack and the subsequent execution of innocents, destruction of homes and burning of a market".

Ghazni's residents "have seen their city turn into a battlefield since Friday morning, with fighting and clashes reportedly still ongoing". And, analysts said, the Taliban already had key resources in the area.

Seth Jones, a longtime watcher of Afghanistan and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was unlikely the Taliban will be able to hold populated areas of Ghazni for long.

The Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on Ghazni's outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city. He says they didn't get any reinforcements and ran out of ammunition, food and water.

Their son and two daughters were wounded by shrapnel from an airstrike on the Taliban near a mosque.

He said around 100 soldiers were on the base when it was first attacked on Sunday.

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Residents said a shortage of medicine is one of the main problems at the hospital and that there are still bodies lying in the hospital grounds. Bodies wrapped in sheets lay in open wooden coffins in the hospital. He also said 194 insurgents, including 12 leaders, were killed - with Pakistani, Chechen and Arabs foreign fighters among the dead.

News from Ghazni remains patchy and incomplete four days after the insurgents launched an assault in the early hours of Friday, with communications badly hit after fighting destroyed most of the city's telecoms masts.

Khair Mohammad, a police officer in neighboring Maidan Wardak province, told the AP he was searching all vehicles coming from Ghazni and looking for any wounded Taliban.

Local officials have not yet commented on the security situation as of Tuesday.

Security forces have struggled to hold back the Taliban since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops pulled out of the country in 2014.

Anticipation had been mounting about the possibility of a second government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated in Afghanistan on August 21.

U.S. forces in Kabul denied reports that the highway had been blocked by the insurgents, saying Afghan forces remained in control of the area and were carrying out a clearance operation targeting militants.

Instead, the Taliban appear intent on seeking a position of strength ahead of expected talks with the United States, which has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 17 years.

The Taliban are fighting to expel foreign forces, topple the government and impose their version of hardline Islamic law 17 years after they were ousted by US -backed forces. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but acknowledged Wells was in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office.

"That doesn't mean they're great", he said in an interview. These and other moves boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500 to a total of more than 14,000.

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