TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the Afghan army's chief of staff, told reporters at a news conference in the capital Kabul on Sunday that heavy fighting was underway to push back the Taliban from city limits. "Strategic locations and centers in the city are under the control of Afghan forces and the Taliban are hiding inside people's homes and shops and resisting."
Lawmakers and local residents, however, said the Taliban were in control of much of the city after an initial attack during the early hours of Friday.
Chaman Shah Ehtemadi, a lawmaker from Ghazni, said, "Only the governor's office, police headquarters and intelligence agency's compound are in the hands of the government and Taliban are pushing to take them."
Mohammad Rahim Hasanyar, a member of the provincial council, said Afghan forces were in defense mode. "No one knows what the exact situation is because there is no communication service."
Ghazni is located on the main highway linking Kabul with Afghanistan's south. The highway has been heavily mined to block the arrival of reinforcements.
Residents were largely blocked inside but some who managed to escape across the fields on the city's periphery said many government buildings were ablaze.
"There was burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city," said Abdul Wakil, a local resident who escaped at a checkpoint into Kabul.
Short videos circulating on social media show a number of heavily armed Taliban militants patrolling the city with a large plume of smoke and flames coming out from the town.
"It is over and the city is taken," says a man standing outside his home, with several Taliban militants nearby.
Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell, the spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement that American aircraft had conducted five strikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday. "The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers."
Exact causality figures were not yet clear. Quoting a hospital official, Afghanistan's 1TV television reported over 90 members of security forces and 13 civilians had been killed, with more than 100 wounded. It said there had also been heavy Taliban casualties.
The attack on the strategic city was the most serious blow to the Kabul government since the militants came close to overrunning the western city of Farah in May.
The Taliban were ousted from power in 2011 following a US-led invasion, which has led to the occupation of the country to this day. The group has, however, been involved in widespread militancy, killing thousands of civilians as well as Afghan and US forces.
Source: Press TV