Dozens Of Afghan Soldiers' Bodies Found After Taliban Attack

Taliban Launch Major Attack On Afghan City Casualties Officials

But with Taliban fighters believed to be hiding in residential areas, it was unclear whether the government had full control of the city.

The attacks began around 2 a.m. with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in Ghazni city.

The attack around 80 miles south of Kabul was the militants' second all-out assault on a provincial capital this year and was one of their most audacious operations to date.

Within hours, the Taliban claimed to have much of the capital under their control.

A local hospital said at least 14 Afghan policemen had been killed in the fighting, while security officials said there were dozens of dead Taliban fighters.

Secret talks were recently held in Qatar between Taliban and USA officials after an unprecedented three-day ceasefire during Eid celebrations in June that was largely respected by both sides.

A spokesperson said the attack was "another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching, but strategically inconsequential headline".

Ghazni police said Kabul-Ghazni Highway has been closed to traffic following heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban.

Civilian houses and army checkpoints came under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters were in the streets, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.

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"U.S. forces responded with close-air support (U.S. attack helicopters) and conducted one strike (drone)".

The Taliban frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.

They came close to repeating the feat in 2016, and in May this year they almost overran the western city of Farah before being beaten back with the aid of USA forces.

The brazen assaults by the Taliban, who have been gaining more ground in their annual spring offensive and who have shrugged off the government's latest offers of a cease-fire and negotiations, underscore the difficulties Afghan forces face in battling the relentless insurgency on their own in efforts to end the almost 17-year war.

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

But there are tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start talks are starting to bear fruit. "In addition, U.S. aircraft conducted a show of presence", Lt Col. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in an emailed statement.

Last month, Taliban representatives met United States officials for talks in Qatar.

An unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary halt, giving war-weary Afghans some welcome relief from violence.

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