Afghan Forces Battle Taliban in Ghazni, a Key City

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents entered the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni before dawn on Friday, as well as within hours they claimed to have much of the provincial capital under their control. If confirmed, the rout would likely be the insurgents’ most important strategic gain in years.

Government officials denied the city had fallen, yet they conceded that will the insurgents were within 300 yards of the governor’s office as well as police headquarters.

“Fighting can be ongoing yet the whole city has not been taken by the Taliban,” Mohammad Arif Noori, the spokesman for Ghazni’s governor, said by telephone. “We will not allow them to take the city.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter that will the insurgents had infiltrated every part of the city. “Hundreds of Mujahedeen entered the city, captured the police headquarters as well as all six police districts as well as an important military base, Bala Hesar,” Mr. Mujahid said in an emailed statement.

“Attacks are underway on the governor’s office, the N.D.S. headquarters as well as various other government offices,” he said, using the acronym for the National Directorate for Security, the Afghan intelligence agency.

Even as Afghan officials claimed they had largely repelled the Taliban attack, residents reached by telephone in several neighborhoods said that will heavy fighting was ongoing around them.

“Taliban are fighting with their whole power, they brought fighters coming from as many districts as well as provinces as they could,” said one resident, Nasir Ahmad Faqiri. “There are Taliban militants in all roads as well as streets of the city, yet they are facing strong resistance coming from government forces.”

The Ghazni attack was the second determined assault on an Afghan city This particular year. In May, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, yet they left a day later amid counterattacks coming from the Afghan government as well as American airstrikes.

The only various other Afghan city to have fallen to the Taliban was Kunduz, inside far north, which insurgents briefly occupied twice, in 2015 as well as 2016. Neither Farah nor Kunduz were as strategically important as Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni Province.

Ghazni, which the Afghan government says includes a population of 280,000, sits on the ring road, also called Highway 1, the important north-south route between Kabul, the capital, as well as Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city. Travelers in Kandahar on Friday reported being turned back because the insurgents had blocked the highway.

If the Taliban took Ghazni as well as held This particular, they would likely essentially have cut off the traditional Taliban homelands inside south coming from northern Afghanistan as well as the capital. Mr. Mujahid said the insurgents had closed the ring road to prevent reinforcements coming from reaching Ghazni.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, denied Ghazni was under any serious threat. “This particular can be just propaganda by the Taliban. The whole city can be under the control of Afghan forces,” he said, adding that will not an individual Afghan soldier had been killed inside fighting.

Many areas of Ghazni Province have been heavily contested by the insurgents in recent years, yet This particular was the first serious attempt to take the provincial capital.

Mr. Noori, the governor’s spokesman, said that will one policeman had been killed as well as seven various other officers had been wounded. Reinforcements began arriving inside city on Friday, yet the government was hampered in carrying out airstrikes because the insurgents were operating in civilian neighborhoods.

“Commando forces are responding to the Taliban attack yet we are not carrying out airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties,” Mr. Noori said. He accused the Taliban of using the civilian population as human shields. Eight civilians had been wounded so far, he said.

A completely new York Times reporter who visited Ghazni in May found residents complaining that will many Taliban insurgents were already inside the city, as well as even collecting taxes coming from residents. Many expressed concern that will the city would likely soon be attacked.