Afghan army chief says full-scale clean-up operation underway to eliminate militants hiding in civilians’ homes
By Shadi Khan Saif
Amid reports of resurgence of deadly clashes in the strategically important Ghazni city of Afghanistan, the country’s army chief said on Sunday a full-scale clean-up operation is underway to eliminate the militants hiding in civilians’ homes there.
Groups of armed Taliban militants stormed the city overnight on Friday, setting fire to a number of checkpoints after engaging in deadly clashes with government forces.
Located some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital Kabul, the city of Ghazni is situated on the main highway connecting it with the country’s southern and western provinces.
Gen. Sharif Yaftali, Chief of Staff for the Afghan National Army, appeared before journalists in Kabul in the afternoon and acknowledged that the control of some government compounds, including the provincial security commandment, have fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
The army chief said the security forces are conducting full-scale clearance operations to eliminate militants from the city.
Yaftali said the forces are facing hurdles during the operations as the militants have taken positions inside the houses, shops, and other civilian areas.
Naseer Ahmad, a member of the provincial assembly, told Anadolu Agency that fighting resumed this morning in Ghazni after a brief respite, following the coordinated assaults on the city by the Taliban militants two days ago.
He said the militants torched a police station and a local private TV channel’s office in the city on Sunday.
Salam Afghanistan, a local broadcaster, reported 16 bodies and 30 injured were brought to the hospital on Sunday. Both sides are claiming to have killed over hundreds of fighters in the opposite camp in the clashes entering third day.
Most of the telecommunication towers in the city have been blown up making communications difficult.
Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman, claimed in a series of tweets on Sunday that Zana Khan, Nawa, Jaghatu, Rasheedan and Khogyano districts surrounding Ghazni city have been overrun, and “multiple” security troops were killed and weapons seized.