Taliban Claim to Have Taken Ghazni, Significant Afghan City

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents entered the southeastern Afghan metropolis of Ghazni earlier than daybreak on Friday, and inside hours they claimed to have a lot of the provincial capital below their management. If confirmed, the rout can be the insurgents’ most essential strategic achieve in years.

Government officers denied the town had fallen, however they conceded that the insurgents had been inside 300 yards of the governor’s workplace and police headquarters.

“Fighting is ongoing but the whole city has not been taken by the Taliban,” Mohammad Arif Noori, the spokesman for Ghazni’s governor, mentioned by phone. “We will not allow them to take the city.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, mentioned on Twitter that the insurgents had infiltrated each a part of the town. “Hundreds of Mujahedeen entered the city, captured the police headquarters and all six police districts and an important military base, Bala Hesar,” Mr. Mujahid mentioned in an emailed assertion.

“Attacks are underway on the governor’s office, the N.D.S. headquarters and other government offices,” he mentioned, utilizing the acronym for the National Directorate for Security, the Afghan intelligence company.

The Ghazni assault was the second decided assault on an Afghan metropolis this yr. In May, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, however they left a day later amid counterattacks from the Afghan authorities and American airstrikes.

The solely different Afghan metropolis to have fallen to the Taliban was Kunduz, within the far north, which insurgents briefly occupied twice, in 2015 and 2016. Neither Farah nor Kunduz had been as strategically essential as Ghazni.

Ghazni, a metropolis of 150,000 and the capital of Ghazni Province, sits on the ring highway, the essential north-south freeway connecting Kabul and Kandahar. Travelers in Kandahar on Friday reported being turned again as a result of the insurgents had blocked the freeway. If the Taliban took Ghazni and held it, they might basically have lower off the south from the north.

Mr. Mujahid mentioned the insurgents had closed the ring highway to stop reinforcements from reaching Ghazni.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, denied Ghazni was below any severe menace. “It is just propaganda by the Taliban. The whole city is under the control of Afghan forces,” he mentioned, including that not a single Afghan soldier had been killed within the combating.

Many areas of Ghazni Province have been closely contested by the insurgents lately, however that is the primary severe try to take the provincial capital.

Mr. Noori, the governor’s spokesman, mentioned that one policeman had been killed and 7 different officers had been wounded. Reinforcements started arriving within the metropolis on Friday, however the authorities was hampered in finishing up airstrikes as a result of the insurgents had been working in civilian neighborhoods.

“Commando forces are responding to the Taliban attack but we are not carrying out airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties,” Mr. Noori mentioned. He accused the Taliban of utilizing the civilian inhabitants as human shields. Eight civilians had been wounded to date, he mentioned.

Rod Nordland reported from Kabul and Fahim Abed from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul.

Follow Rod Nordland and Fahim Abed on Twitter: @rodnordland and @fahimabed

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