Kabul, Aug 14 (IANS) At least 466 people, including 40 civilians, have been killed in ongoing clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in Ghazni city, officials said on Tuesday.
The militant Islamist group launched an offensive to seize control of the eastern Afghan city five days ago.
“Taliban deaths increased to 326 while we have 100 security forces martyred, among them 70 policemen. Up to 40 civilians have also been killed,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Ghafoor Ahmad Javid told Efe news.
Javid said the casualties had increased from 325 on Monday to 466 as the Afghan security forces, with support from the US Air Force, have been clearing the city and forcing the insurgents to the outskirts.
The data on civilian casualties was still preliminary and the exact number would be released after operations to clear the city of remaining insurgents was complete, he said.
“All areas inside the city are cleared of the Taliban fighters and currently the operation is focused on the western and northern outskirts of the city.”
Javid said the priority for authorities was to provide food and water to the approximately 270,000 residents of Ghazni.
They were also working to restore telecommunication services, electricity and water distribution services, which have been severely disrupted.
This has been the heaviest Taliban offensive on a provincial capital since the brief occupation of the western city of Farah in May.
In 2015, the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz and held out for several days.
In 2016, the Taliban surrounded and managed to enter Trinkot, the capital of Uruzgan province, and Lashkargah — the capital of Helmand — but in both cases they were able to maintain control for only a few days.
According to information released in 2017 by the US, the Afghan government controls about 56 per cent of the country and the Taliban 11 per cent, while the rest of the territory is under dispute.