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Ghazni battle rages: Taliban use civilian houses as stronghold

Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: Fierce battle still continued in southern Ghazni on Sunday as Afghan soldiers and Taliban guerillas fight to claim the tumultuous city, with the army chief of staff claiming rebels sustained heavy casualties, and pledging to end the fight in a few days.

“The Taliban are using residential houses, shops and public markets as their stronghold and the army forces are operating with extreme caution in order to prevent from civilian casualties and financial losses,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Sharif Yaftali said in a news conference.

Afghan forces have been stationed in police headquarters, provincial office compound, prison, provincial security directorate and the army center in Ghazni city and exert utmost efforts to push the Taliban back from the city, he said.

Taliban and foreign terrorists had plunged into the city from Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Paktia and Paktika provinces to abet the Taliban in the battle. Otherwise, the Taliban wouldn’t have had the capability to wage a war of such scale inside Ghazni, he added.

A handful of Lashkar-e-Taliban militants were killed in the battlefield; which implied that there is a hand of some regional intelligence agencies behind the conflict in Ghazni, he said, declaring that over150 Taliban fighters were killed in the first day of the battle and over 20 airstrikes have been carried out, having inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban.

He said the militants had torched several public institutions and markets;“They even destroyed communication towers inside the cityto wreak havoc among people”.

Based on initial reports, around 10 Afghan forces have been killed and over 20 wounded.

As usual also Taliban committed war crime and they killed or took as hostage some passengers were coming from Kandahar in highway of Ghazni, he mentioned.

Enough additional forces reached to Ghazni and  they are struggling best to change situation and bring stability in Ghazni city within nest two or three days, he asserted.

“We are hopeful to change situation in two or three days in Ghazni city,” he noted.

He said that in first step clearance of city is important for us, later opening of highway, then establishing defense belt and rehabilitation.

Deputy provincial Council Amanullah Karani said that, while confirming ongoing conflict between Afghan forces and Taliban around police headquarter, provincial office and security directorate, said that clashes intensified inside Ghazni city.

He said that Taliban, Afghan forces and civilians sustain casualties but no exact figure in hand.

Taliban came from different provinces to Ghazni at the objective to take completely the control of the capital of the province, he mentioned.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in tweeter said that old Ghazni airbase overrun, 20 pickup trucks destroyed, Qala Shada area of city also cleared.

He said that their fighters again managed to hold onto areas cleared from enemy over past two days, most parts of the city is under Taliban control and clearing operations continue.

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