Fierce battles continued for a third day Sunday in central Afghanistan, where government forces sought to fend off Taliban fighters seeking to take control of the city of Ghazni. Officials and residents cited by Reuters said that the battle had already claimed dozens of police officers and soldiers. An unknown number of civilians were also reported dead in the fighting, though no specific figures were available. With most of the city’s telecommunications centers destroyed, conflicting reports trickled out about whether or not the Taliban had taken control of the city. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Afghan army chief of staff, told Reuters that Taliban forces are “hiding inside people’s homes and shops and resisting” after government forces quashed their offensive. He said the city is not under threat. Ghazni lawmakers told a different story, however, saying the Taliban had seized control of a substantial portion of the city. “There was burning and fire and dead bodies everywhere in the city,” resident Abdul Wakil told Reuters after escaping. U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said five air strikes had been carried out against the Taliban on Saturday, followed by another four on Sunday. The new Taliban offensive comes just days after reports of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban on potential peace talks.
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