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Taliban Captures Afghan Army Base In North, Battle For Ghazni Continues

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint on the Ghazni - Kabul highway on August 14.
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers keep watch at a checkpoint on the Ghazni - Kabul highway on August 14.

Taliban fighters have overrun an Afghan National Army operations base in northern Afghanistan while, further to the south, security forces are battling for a fifth consecutive day against Taliban militants who seized the city of Ghazni.

Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed said Taliban fighters gained control of the base in the Ghormach district of the northern province of Faryab late on August 13.

Jawed said 17 Afghan soldiers were killed and at least 19 wounded in the battle.

An army spokesman, Mohammad Hanif Rezaee, said 100 Afghan soldiers were at the base, known as Camp Chinaya, when the Taliban began their assault against it on August 12.

"It is a tragedy that the base fell to the enemy," Rezaee said. "Some soldiers were killed, some captured, and some fled to nearby hills."

Hashim Otaq, a member of Afghanistan's parliament who represents Faryab Province, said about 40 Afghan soldiers had been captured by the Taliban.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said 57 Afghan soldiers surrendered to the Taliban and another 17 were captured. He said Taliban fighters seized eight military Humvees -- four-wheeled armored vehicles that had been provided to the Afghan forces by the United States.

Faryab Provincial Council Chief Mohammad Tahir Rahmani said the base fell to the Taliban because the Afghan soldiers did not receive reinforcements and had run out of ammunition, food, and water.

The battle began after the Taliban launched an assault early on August 10 and captured Ghazni, a strategic city located on the main highway linking Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar.

Afghan officials said security forces, backed by air support, later pushed the militants back from most of Ghazni, which is Afghanistan's seventh largest city.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasart Rahimi said on August 14 that security forces were searching the city of 270,000 people for Taliban fighters.

Ghazni Provincial Council member Nasir Ahmad Faqiri wrote on Facebook that Taliban forces had slowly retreated from within the city to areas on Ghazni's outskirts that are under Taliban control.

However, the militant group said sporadic gunbattles were still ongoing inside the city.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says between 110 and 150 civilians reportedly have been killed or injured in the fighting, adding that the number of civilian casualties still needs to be verified.

Late on August 13, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami said about 100 police officers and soldiers were killed in the battle, along with at least 20 civilians. Bahrami said 341 Taliban fighters were killed or wounded in the battle for Ghazni.

Information from Ghazni was difficult to verify with telecommunications services being shut down due to the clashes.

Afghanistan's Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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