Dozens dead as Taliban attacks Afghanistan's Ghazni

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Police on Friday said more than 100 Taliban militants were killed and wounded after they attacked this capital city of southern Ghazni province from four directions. In May, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, but they left a day later amid counterattacks from the Afghan government and American airstrikes.

Ghazni is a gateway city linking the heavily Taliban-influenced south and east of Afghanistan to Kabul and is one of the last vestiges of government control in the province of the same name.

Ghazni - less than two hours by road from Kabul - has been under threat from massing Taliban fighters for months, with residents saying the complex nature of the attacks was unprecedented in its scale.

US Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US military's Central Command, said the Afghans acknowledged the surrender, the largest of its kind so far by Islamic State, "could have been handled better".

However, sporadic gunfire continued to echo into the afternoon amid intermittent clashes, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as scattered Taliban fighters roamed the streets. He said three Taliban had been killed and eight wounded.

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After repulsing the daring assault, police conducted house-to-house searches for any remaining Taliban fighters.

The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war.

"US forces responded with close-air support (US attack helicopters) and conducted one strike (drone). In addition, United States aircraft conducted a show of presence".

The attack in Chinartu district last Friday underlined the ferocity of fighting in many areas of Afghanistan even as speculation has increased about a possible ceasefire during Eid holiday this month.

At least 14 Afghan policemen were killed and 20 were wounded in the assault.

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Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops at the end of 2014. "They have essentially waged a pretty vicious campaign against the people without regard to civilian casualties", Votel said.

There are about 14,000 US ground troops in Afghanistan, making up the bulk of NATO's Resolute Support force.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, asserted that 46 Afghan soldiers died in the clashes at the base and a number of checkpoints and "not killed in Taliban detention centers".

Police special forces have also been deployed to help block the Taliban advance, an Afghan security official said.

However, O'Donnell said initial reports indicated minimal casualties among Afghan security forces.

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It has so far ignored President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations.

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