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U.S. Launches Air Strikes To Counter Major Taliban Attack On Afghan City

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U.S. warplanes and helicopters launched air strikes on August 10 to counter a Taliban attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni, where heavy fighting is under way as security forces try to repel the militants.

The fighting prompted authorities to close the highway linking Ghazni to Kabul, and a security official said police special forces were deployed to help block the Taliban advance on the city.

At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting on August 10, the provincial governor’s spokesman, Arif Noori, told the AFP news agency.

Civilian homes and army checkpoints came under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters lay in the streets, he said.

The Taliban began the attack late on August 9 from several positions around the city 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul, provincial officials said.

“The Taliban are dropping missiles near residential and commercial areas. There has not been a single minute of silence for the last eight hours,” Reuters quoted an unnamed senior government official in Ghazni as saying.

The news agency cited a second government official as saying he had no immediate details on casualties.

“It is not possible to get out of our homes to help the injured or collect bodies,” the official said.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured “most government buildings inside the city.”

The militant group claimed that scores of government troops had been killed or wounded while three Taliban had been killed and eight wounded.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the city was under control of government forces. The ministry did not say whether any of its forces were killed or wounded.

The U.S. military also said that the city remained under government control.

“U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni,” the official account for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan tweeted on August 10.

Baz Mohammad Hemat, the head of a hospital in Ghazni city, told the Associated Press that nine wounded security personnel were being treated at the hospital.

The attack on Ghazni was the latest in a series of attempts by the Taliban to capture urban centers.

A U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan after Al-Qaeda militants whose leaders were being sheltered by the extremist group carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

But the Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militants since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government of direct peace negotiations.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa