KABUL – The Taliban launched on Friday a strong offensive to seize control of eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni, a city of great strategic importance, making it a major military achievement of the insurgent group after occupying Kunduz in 2015 and Farah in May.
“The attack by hundreds of heavily armed Taliban fighters from all four directions of the city started at 12.30 am and is still ongoing,” provincial governor spokesperson Arif Noori told EFE.
“This has been the biggest Taliban attack on Ghazni city and its suburbs in the last 17 years in which such a big number of militants attacked with a plan to completely take over the city,” added Noori.
The Taliban simultaneously attacked the checkpoints, the entire defensive line around the city and the supply route to completely isolate it, Noori said.
“Although the tense fighting decreased with daybreak it is still continuing in different suburbs (...) and in the western part of the city that is only 500 meters away from Ghazni police headquarters and government buildings,” he explained.
There is still no clear information on casualties among security force members and residents.
Defense ministry spokesperson Muhammad Radmanish said around 150 Taliban fighters have been killed by the security forces and that the fighting to expel them from the city is ongoing.
“The city is under the control of security forces,” Radmanish clarified to EFE, adding that they have also launched a special operation to locate Taliban members hiding in civilian homes.
The United States’ Army confirmed to EFE they have provided air support to Afghan forces which maintain control of the city.
Amanullah Kamrani, a member of the provincial parliament and who witnessed the offensive, told EFE that “it was a big attack but thank God the city did not fall. There was fighting in every corner of the city last night.”
The Taliban issued a statement saying that hundreds of their fighters had seized almost all city checkpoints and that they are attacking the governor’s residence.
“In this attack more than 140 security forces were killed and wounded and tens of them were captured alive,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
This has been the worst Taliban offensive on a provincial capital since the brief occupation of the western city of Farah in May.
In 2015, the Taliban seized for several days the northern city of Kunduz, in its greatest military achievement since the US invasion in 2001.
In 2016, the Taliban surrounded and managed to enter Trinkot capital of Uruzgan province and Lashkargah capital of Helmand, but in both cases were able to maintain control for only a few days.
According to information released last year by the US, the Afghan government controls about 56 percent of the country and the Taliban 11 percent, while the rest of the territory is under dispute.