Intense fighting as Taliban presses to take Afghan city

The insurgents frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during clashes

The battle for Afghanistan's key city of Ghazni between Taliban fighters and security forces has intensified, with dozens of people reported killed after three days of violence.

Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Afghan army chief of staff, said on Sunday the city was not under threat of collapse and heavy fighting was under way to push back the Taliban from city limits.

Nawroz said that they contacted the interior minister, Wais Ahmad Barmak, a day before the attack and that they shared their concerns on Ghazni City situation, but according to him, the minister said that the city will not fall - to the Taliban.

Taliban forces have been making inroads in several parts of Afghanistan with major offensives in recent months.

Taliban representatives have met U.S. officials to talk about the framework for possible peace talks and the government is considering offering a second ceasefire during the Eidul Azha holiday later this month.

The Taliban launched the assault in the early hours of Friday. Local television station 1TV says the number of fatalities has risen to more than 100, but there is no official confirmation. One lawmaker said that only the governor's office, the police headquarters and the intelligence police facility remained in government hands.

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A senior Taliban official said the movement had established a political office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent aimed at developing better ties and showing that they did not intend to support local militant groups.

The Red Cross said in a message on Twitter that it was watching the situation closely.

President Ashraf Ghani made no mention of the crisis during an extended speech on youth affairs on Sunday and with little coming out from the government, people were left to rely on alternative sources of information. 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.

There are also reports the road outside the city has been mined, making it hard for residents to escape.

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

The US presented it as a "failed attempt" to capture the city, and said that with close air support, Afghan forces were able to hold their ground. One man, named Abdul Wakil, who reached a police check post outside the capital, told the Reuters news agency that he had seen "burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city". They hit the city from several points of ingress, attempting to overrun it and expel USA -backed forces from the city.

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