The death toll has risen to over 300 in the fourth day of a Taliban assault on the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan, a defense minister said Monday.
Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said about 100 security forces and as many as 30 civilians have been killed since the Taliban launched an attack Friday on Ghazni, seizing buildings and exchanging fire with security forces.
Bahrami told reporters in Kabul nearly 200 Taliban fighters were also killed, including 12 “key commanders,” mostly by U.S. Air Force raids.
A U.S. military statement said the city remains under Afghan control despite the Taliban assault. American advisers are assisting Afghan forces and have “delivered decisive blows to Taliban.”
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Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish said reinforcements have been sent into Ghazni to clear out the Taliban.
The fighting has halted traffic on a main highway linking northern and southern Afghan provinces for four days, leaving passengers stranded. Protests have also broken out against the violence, which is hindering humanitarian aid.
Enayat Nasir, an activist who organized a protest march in Kabul, said people are facing “serious hunger.”
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The International Committee of the Red Cross Afghanistan said Monday a break in fighting allowed it to provide fuel and emergency medical supplies for over 100 people.
“Residents of Ghazni City have seen their city turn into a battlefield since Friday morning, with fighting and clashes reportedly still ongoing,” Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said.
Peeperkorn said many people in the city of 270,000 are unable to leave their homes, electricity is down and food is running out. He also said parties need to resolve the conflict to ensure access to medical services.
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“We call on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the lives and rights of civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure,” he said.
The attack on Ghazni is the largest operation the Taliban has launched since a truce in June brought fighting to a temporary halt.
A previous large-scale assault occurred in May in Afghanistan’s Farah province, where Taliban fighters forced the governor to flee and caused the collapse of multiple security compounds.