Taliban fighters launch attack on Ghazni, clash with Afghan troops; Violence intensifies across Afghanistan’s central and northern provinces

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GHAZNI, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Taliban fighters have launched an attack on Ghazni, clashing with Afghan forces and using explosives in an attempt to seize the central Afghan city, local officials said on Tuesday.

The assault on Ghazni, on the highway linking the capital Kabul with the southern province of Kandahar, ramps up the Taliban’s offensive against the government and comes as foreign troops prepare to exit from the war-torn country in less than three months.

While senior Afghan officials confirmed the Taliban’s offensive, they also said that Afghan forces were trying to regain control of lost ground.

The Taliban have had a strong presence in the province of Ghazni for years, but provincial police officials said the overnight attack from several directions was the fiercest launched by the insurgents.

Clashes intensified near security checkpoints in the Shaikh Ajal and Ganj area of Ghazni city, forcing shopkeepers to shut the main market.

“The situation in Ghazni is changing, most of the lost areas in the outskirts are being taken back by the Afghan forces,” said Abdul Jami, a provincial council member in Ghazni.

Roads into the area were closed and telecoms interrupted making it hard for aid groups and officials to assess the number of casualties.

As Afghan forces battle the Taliban in Ghazni and other parts of the country, officials said young civilians were actively joining the battle against the hardline Islamist group.

Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a spokesman for the Afghan defence and security forces, said Afghans keen to take up arms against the Taliban are being absorbed in the structure of territorial army forces.

“First they will be trained then they will be deployed to the battlefield along with other Afghan security forces,” said Shinwari in capital city Kabul.

Violence surged after the U.S. and NATO military began the withdrawal of their last remaining troops to meet a Sept. 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end America’s longest war.

Amid the rising violence, President Ashraf Ghani visited Washington last week to meet Biden, who pledged U.S. support to Afghanistan but said Afghans must decide their own future.

Reporting by Afghanistan bureau, Editing by William Maclean

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Violence intensifies across Afghanistan’s central and northern provinces

KABUL, June 28 (Reuters) – Taliban militants have taken over a district, launched attacks on checkpoints and cemented control over a border trade crossing, officials said on Monday, as clashes intensify in Afghanistan’s central and northern provinces.

Violence has risen sharply around the country as foreign forces work towards withdrawing by Sept. 11 and peace talks in Qatar have failed to make significant progress. read more

The Taliban have launched a wave of offensives around the country, particularly in the north, outside of their southern strongholds. read more

In central Bamiyan province, normally relatively free of conflict, Taliban fighters attacked several security checkpoints, resulting in heavy clashes overnight, according to Humayoon Elkhani, spokesman for Bamiyan’s provincial police.

In central Ghazni province, Muqur district fell to the Taliban after months of being under siege, according to a member of the provincial council and a security source. A health centre in the district was bombed on Monday morning, according to provincial health director Zaher Shah Nekmal, injuring five health workers.

In northern Badakhshan province, the Taliban launched coordinated attacks on five districts overnight but were fought back by Afghan security forces, according to a spokesperson for the provincial government.

The Taliban also still has maintained control of Shir Khan Bandar, a significant border crossing town with Tajikistan, after seizing it last week.

Shafiqullah Atayi, chairman of Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment, said the Taliban had appointed their own members to run the administration offices but that trade had stopped. A Taliban spokesman said they had appointed officials to run the transit point and it was open for people to cross.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s capital Kabul suffered severe power outages in recent days after a power pylon in central Parwan province was blown up on the weekend by unknown attackers.

A spokesperson for national power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat said around 35 power pylons had been blown up in the last six months, but they were not clear on who was behind the explosions.

Reporting by Kabul bureau; Editing by Alison Williams
Taliban fighters launch attack on Ghazni, clash with Afghan troops; Violence intensifies across Afghanistan’s central and northern provinces