Afghan Forces Battle Taliban in Key City for Third Day

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The eastern city was overrun by hundreds of insurgent forces early Friday in the Taliban's latest attempt to capture an important urban target. But details of the fighting were unclear as most of the city's telecoms masts were destroyed in fighting over recent days.

Gen. Sharif Yaftali, army chief of staff, says all strategic and government offices in Ghazni are still under government control.

"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", Yaftali told reporters at a news conference in Kabul.

According to the officials, the Taliban fighters joined the peace process as a result of efforts by the High Peace Council (HPC) and in corporation with government forces. One lawmaker said that only the governor's office, the police headquarters and the intelligence police facility remained in government hands.

Taliban representatives have met USA officials to talk about the framework for possible peace talks and the Western-backed government is considering offering a second ceasefire during the Eid al-Adha holiday later this month.

"The situation is very dire at the moment", he said.

There was no confirmed word on casualties. Local television station 1TV says the number of fatalities has risen to more than 100, but there is no official confirmation.

"The delegation exchanged views with Uzbek officials on the withdrawal of foreign troops and also explored ways for reconciliation in Afghanistan", Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban political office has told The Daily Times.

Nearby residents said that numerous prisoners were militants who were quickly armed by their comrades before joining the battle.

While little firsthand information was available from the city Sunday and most cellphone communication was cut off, social media showed videos of badly burned and damaged buildings. Insurgent forces were said to have mined and set up checkpoints on the nearby highway, which links Kabul with the southern tribal region that is the Taliban's home turf.

The videos could not be independently verified but they generated heavy commentary by social media users that underlined the shock caused by the attack.

US military headquarters in Kabul said sporadic clashes were occurring and American aircraft had conducted five strikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday.

On Sunday, Lt Col Martin O'Donnell, US Forces Afghanistan spokesperson, said the Afghan army "continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centres".