The Taliban on Sunday continued with their offensive to seize control of the strategic easter Afghan city of Ghazni, the third day in a row on which their forces battled government troops supported by U.S. airstrikes.
Insurgents entered Ghazni from several directions late Thursday night, attacking media offices and damaging a telecommunications tower, effectively shutting off mobile service to the city as of Friday afternoon - making information about the fight hard to verify.
Afghan security forces remained in control of all strategic positions in Ghazni, including the office of the provincial governor, police headquarters, the main prison and the office of the Afghan spy agency, Yaftali said.
He said on Sunday that fighting is still underway as the Taliban are hiding in residential areas and in civilian homes.
Ghazni - less than two hours by road from Kabul - has been under increasing danger from massing Taliban fighters for months, with reports suggesting insurgents had already infiltrated the city.
USA aircraft conducted at least four air strikes but details of the fighting were unclear as most of the city's telecoms masts were destroyed in fighting over recent days.
The insurgents began the attack by entering homes in Ghazni and then slipping out into the night to attack security forces. While in control of the city, fighters destroyed multiple government facilities, seized military equipment, executed opponents and freed prisoners from the city's jails. "Our defense and security forces are in full control of the city", Rahimi said.
Taliban control of the city would not only cut off northern Afghanistan and the capital from the traditional Taliban homelands in the south, it would also prove a severe defeat for the US and Afghan strategy of holding population centers rather than territory. The Taliban claimed to have shot it down, Radmanish said it was not clear if the aircraft had been hit or crash-landed for other reasons.
Government radio and television was shut down and only Radio Shariat, a Taliban station, was broadcasting.
More than a hundred Afghan troops are believed to have been killed and Taliban losses...
Taliban political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai represented the insurgents in the four-day talks that ended on Friday and included meetings with Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov as well as the country's special representative to Afghanistan Ismatilla Irgashev.
It was the second major Taliban attack of the weekend in Afghanistan, with the terror group having struck a newly constructed district headquarters in the southern Uruzgan province early on Saturday.
Mohammad Rahim Hasanyar, a senator from the province, said reinforcements from the capital, Kabul, had not moved past Rawza, a town located 2km north-east of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name.
Lt. Col. Martin L. O'Donnell, the spokesman for United States forces in Afghanistan was quoted by TOLOnews as saying, "US forces responded (to the attack) with close-air support (US attack helicopters) and conducted one strike (drone)". "That said, clearing operations are ongoing and we have received reports of sporadic clashes".
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said to be considering a cease-fire offer for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
There was no sign of US airstrikes or helicopters Saturday, as there had been the day before.