USA launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan provincial capital Ghazni

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Afghan troops were fighting from street to street in the city of Ghazni this morning after a massive pre-dawn assault by the Taliban broke the defences of the strategic provincial city and Islamic fighters advanced towards the centre.

This screen grab taken from AFPTV video on August 10, 2018 shows smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital Ghazni, with terrified residents cowering in their homes amid explosions and gunfire.

Taliban insurgent forces launched a fierce pre-dawn attack Friday on the eastern Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni, overrunning government buildings amid heavy fighting before being driven out by USA -backed Afghan forces, officials said Friday.

The attack on Afghan soldiers resulted in multiple casualties on both sides, Ghazni government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori told CNN.

Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months with heavy fighting in surrounding districts.

"So far 140 enemy forces have been killed or wounded", the group said.

According to the officials, at least 26 security personnel are among those wounded during the clashes.

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.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahdi claimed the fighters had captured the police headquarters among several key military installions and posts, killing dozens of security forces.

US attack helicopters and drone aircraft provided government forces with air support.

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"US forces responded with close-air support and conducted one drone strike", O'Donnell said.

Heavy fighting was ongoing as of Friday afternoon in the city, where Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces were engaging fighters "by air and ground", Noori said.

The Taliban are fighting the Western-backed government to restore their version of sharia, or Islamic law, after they were driven out by USA -led forces in 2001.

Sporadic gunfire continued to echo amid intermittent clashes, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as Taliban fighters roamed the streets.

Hamidullah Nawrozi, member of Ghazni Provincial Council, told TOLOnews that "Ghazni city will fall to the Taliban if reinforcements were not sent".

Pompeo also said the role of foreign forces in Afghanistan would be on the table.

The Taliban has long insisted on direct talks with the United States.

The Taliban attack came as Ghazni contemplated a cease-fire offer to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha later this month.

He said China has always supported the issue of peace talks and that they "continue to facilitate the talks based on the principle of (it being) Afghan-led and Afghan-owned". Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed.